What Snowden really revealed

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Global surveillance disclosures (2013–present)
He puts a large red hood over his head and laptop when entering his passwords to prevent any hidden cameras from detecting them. Obama , Judge Richard J. A subject of controversy, Snowden has been variously called a hero, a whistleblower , a dissident , a traitor, and a patriot. On 14 June , UK's Sunday Times reported that Russian and Chinese intelligence services had decrypted more than 1 million classified files in the Snowden cache, forcing the UK's MI6 intelligence agency to move agents out of live operations in hostile countries. How Snowden missed his flight to Cuba". Each of them were assigned a particular area of the international fiber-optic network for which they were individually responsible.

'You can't wait around for someone else to act'

Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations

No place was too private or too sacred to escape their surveillance. They nakedly spoke of their desire to control every bit of communications information on the planet. Throughout this, the idea that anyone was entitled to personal privacy was treated as a quaint joke. As it turns out, while the NSA was remarkably good at violating the innermost thoughts and feelings of Americans, it was remarkably poor at finding actual threats to the US.

A White House panel, convened in the wake of Snowden's leaks this week, was forced to admit that massive NSA spying had not produced evidence revealing even a single terrorist plot against the country.

The spectre of terrorism had been used as a bludgeon to compel Americans to give up every last shred of their privacy. But incredibly, upon finding nothing, the government simply kept prying further still. One intelligence official, who was on the White House's panel, made this incredible admission: So what was the NSA doing for all these years if not finding terrorists?

What were those billions of dollars being spent on? It turns out they were bulk collecting domestic phone records, online searches, emails, videos and voice chats. Not satisfied with this Orwellian level of invasiveness, NSA agents were even found to be infiltrating video game communities and developing techniques to blackmail individuals with their online pornography usage. Throughout all this, they found nothing about terrorism. To paraphrase the writer Jonathan Schwarz: The Snowden leaks mainly revealed that the US has so few threats the NSA could just waste endless amounts of time and money.

While this is certainly true, it's also worth examining what the organisational response of the NSA was to discovering that their spying powers were massively excessive and superfluous.

Instead of disclosing to the American people that they were largely safe and could take a deep breath, they actually fought to ramp up the fear even higher. The spectre of terrorism was invoked to justify even more expansive spying powers. In short, they publicly played up a threat of terrorism which they privately knew was almost non-existent.

Thus, what Snowden revealed was far worse than simple bureaucratic overreach or inconsistencies with the law. Instead a narrative which had been promulgated by government officials over the past decade - that Americans would need to sacrifice their basic freedoms in order to be safe - was revealed to be brazenly false. Americans had given up their most personal freedoms and were not any safer for it.

This was not because the NSA didn't have enough power to search, but because it turned out there was literally nothing out there for them to find. Their response to this discovery mirrored those of powerful intelligence agencies throughout history: Barrett , [8] [9] was a rear admiral in the U. Coast Guard who became a senior official with the FBI and was at the Pentagon in during the September 11 attacks. District Court for the District of Maryland.

Edward Snowden said that he had expected to work for the federal government, as had the rest of his family. In the early s, while still in grade school, Snowden moved with his family to the area of Fort Meade, Maryland. At age 20, he listed Buddhism as his religion on a military recruitment form, noting that the choice of agnostic was "strangely absent.

Snowden has said that in the presidential election , he voted for a third-party candidate, though he "believed in Obama's promises". Following the election, he believed President Barack Obama was continuing policies espoused by George W. In accounts published in June , interviewers noted that Snowden's laptop displayed stickers supporting Internet freedom organizations including the Electronic Frontier Foundation EFF and the Tor Project.

Feeling a duty to fight in the Iraq War to help free oppressed people, [21] Snowden enlisted in the United States Army Reserve on May 7, and became a Special Forces candidate through its 18X enlistment option.

After attending a job-fair focused on intelligence agencies, Snowden accepted an offer for a position at the CIA. In May , Snowden wrote in Ars Technica that he had no trouble getting work because he was a "computer wizard". In March , the CIA stationed Snowden with diplomatic cover in Geneva , Switzerland, where he was responsible for maintaining computer-network security.

Snowden said that when the latter was arrested, a CIA operative offered to help in exchange for the banker becoming an informant. With all due respect, I just can't imagine it," said Maurer. In , Snowden began work as a contractee for Dell , [45] which manages computer systems for multiple government agencies. Assigned to an NSA facility at Yokota Air Base near Tokyo , Snowden instructed top officials and military officers on how to defend their networks from Chinese hackers. In that capacity, he was consulted by the chiefs of the CIA's technical branches, including the agency's chief information officer and its chief technology officer.

A former NSA co-worker said that although the NSA was full of smart people, Snowden was a "genius among geniuses" who created a widely implemented backup system for the NSA and often pointed out security flaws to the agency. The former colleague said Snowden was given full administrator privileges with virtually unlimited access to NSA data. A spokeswoman for Johns Hopkins said that the university did not find records to show that Snowden attended the university, and suggested that he may instead have attended Advanced Career Technologies, a private for-profit organization that operated as the Computer Career Institute at Johns Hopkins University.

The university said that Snowden registered for an online master's degree program in computer security in but was inactive as a student and had not completed the program. Snowden has said that he had told multiple employees and two supervisors about his concerns, but the NSA disputes his claim.

The reactions of those I told about the scale of the constitutional violations ranged from deeply concerned to appalled, but no one was willing to risk their jobs, families, and possibly even freedom to go through what [Thomas Andrews] Drake did.

He asserted that the NSA had copies of emails he sent to their Office of General Counsel , oversight and compliance personnel broaching "concerns about the NSA's interpretations of its legal authorities. I had raised these complaints not just officially in writing through email, but to my supervisors, to my colleagues, in more than one office.

In May , U. So when they say I'm a low-level systems administrator, that I don't know what I'm talking about, I'd say it's somewhat misleading. They would tell me their hardest technology problems, and it was my job to come up with a way to fix them.

Of his time as an NSA analyst, directing the work of others, Snowden recalled a moment when he and his colleagues began to have severe ethical doubts. Snowden said 18 to year-old analysts were suddenly "thrust into a position of extraordinary responsibility, where they now have access to all your private records. In the course of their daily work, they stumble across something that is completely unrelated in any sort of necessary sense—for example, an intimate nude photo of someone in a sexually compromising situation.

But they're extremely attractive. So what do they do? They turn around in their chair and they show a co-worker The exact size of Snowden's disclosure is unknown, [73] but Australian officials have estimated 15, or more Australian intelligence files [74] and British officials estimate at least 58, British intelligence files. The vast majority of those were related to our military capabilities, operations, tactics, techniques and procedures.

According to Snowden, he did not indiscriminately turn over documents to journalists, stating that "I carefully evaluated every single document I disclosed to ensure that each was legitimately in the public interest. There are all sorts of documents that would have made a big impact that I didn't turn over" [82] and that "I have to screen everything before releasing it to journalists If I have time to go through this information, I would like to make it available to journalists in each country.

Navy Admiral Michael S. Rogers , said that while some terrorist groups had altered their communications to avoid surveillance techniques revealed by Snowden, the damage done was not significant enough to conclude that "the sky is falling. On 14 June , UK's Sunday Times reported that Russian and Chinese intelligence services had decrypted more than 1 million classified files in the Snowden cache, forcing the UK's MI6 intelligence agency to move agents out of live operations in hostile countries.

The Sunday Times said it was not clear whether Russia and China stole Snowden's data or whether Snowden voluntarily handed it over to remain at liberty in Hong Kong and Moscow.

Snowden then contacted documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras in January Greenwald began working with Snowden in either February [97] or April , after Poitras asked Greenwald to meet her in New York City, at which point Snowden began providing documents to them. Snowden communicated using encrypted email , [95] and going by the codename " Verax ". He asked not to be quoted at length for fear of identification by stylometry. According to Gellman, prior to their first meeting in person, Snowden wrote, "I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions, and that the return of this information to the public marks my end.

In May , Snowden was permitted temporary leave from his position at the NSA in Hawaii, on the pretext of receiving treatment for his epilepsy. After disclosing the copied documents, Snowden promised that nothing would stop subsequent disclosures. In June , he said, "All I can say right now is the US government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me. Truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped.

On May 20, , Snowden flew to Hong Kong , [82] where he was staying when the initial articles based on the leaked documents were published, [] beginning with The Guardian on June 5. The Guardian ' s chief editor, Alan Rusbridger , credited Snowden for having performed a public service. The ongoing publication of leaked documents has revealed previously unknown details of a global surveillance apparatus run by the United States' NSA [] in close cooperation with three of its Five Eyes partners: On June 5, , media reports documenting the existence and functions of classified surveillance programs and their scope began and continued throughout the entire year.

He said the U. The NSA's top-secret black budget , obtained from Snowden by The Washington Post , exposed the successes and failures of the 16 spy agencies comprising the U. It was revealed that the NSA was harvesting millions of email and instant messaging contact lists, [] searching email content, [] tracking and mapping the location of cell phones, [] undermining attempts at encryption via Bullrun [] [] and that the agency was using cookies to piggyback on the same tools used by Internet advertisers "to pinpoint targets for government hacking and to bolster surveillance.

The agency's intelligence-gathering operations had targeted, among others, oil giant Petrobras , Brazil's largest company. In October , Glenn Greenwald said "the most shocking and significant stories are the ones we are still working on, and have yet to publish. By October , Snowden's disclosures had created tensions [] [] between the U.

Their stated goal was to "dramatically increase mastery of the global network" and to acquire adversaries' data from "anyone, anytime, anywhere. Snowden said in a January interview with German television that the NSA does not limit its data collection to national security issues, accusing the agency of conducting industrial espionage. Using the example of German company Siemens , he said, "If there's information at Siemens that's beneficial to US national interests—even if it doesn't have anything to do with national security—then they'll take that information nevertheless.

In February , during testimony to the European Union, Snowden said of the remaining undisclosed programs, "I will leave the public interest determinations as to which of these may be safely disclosed to responsible journalists in coordination with government stakeholders. The newspaper said it had examined documents including emails, message texts, and online accounts, that support the claim. In an August interview, Snowden for the first time disclosed a cyberwarfare program in the works, codenamed MonsterMind , that would automate detection of a foreign cyberattack as it began and automatically fire back.

And then we end up shooting back at a Russian hospital. Snowden first contemplated leaking confidential documents around but held back, partly because he believed the newly elected Barack Obama might introduce reforms.

Snowden said he wanted to "embolden others to step forward" by demonstrating that "they can win. In December , upon learning that a U. In January , Snowden said his "breaking point" was "seeing the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, directly lie under oath to Congress.

Seeing that really meant for me there was no going back. Beyond that, it was the creeping realization that no one else was going to do this. The public had a right to know about these programs. In May , Snowden took a leave of absence, telling his supervisors he was returning to the mainland for epilepsy treatment, but instead left Hawaii for Hong Kong [] where he arrived on May Snowden told Guardian reporters in June that he had been in his room at the Mira Hotel since his arrival in the city, rarely going out.

Snowden vowed to challenge any extradition attempt by the U. Glenn Greenwald said Snowden was motivated by a need to "ingratiate himself to the people of Hong Kong and China. After leaving the Mira Hotel, Snowden stayed in a cramped apartment with other refugees seeking asylum in Hong Kong, an arrangement set up by Tibbo to hide from the authorities.

They haven't been able to, because it's false. State Department spokesman rejected the explanation of technical noncompliance, accusing the Hong Kong government of deliberately releasing a fugitive despite a valid arrest warrant and after having sufficient time to prohibit his travel.

In October , Snowden said that before flying to Moscow, he gave all the classified documents he had obtained to journalists he met in Hong Kong, and kept no copies for himself. He asserted "a planeload of reporters documented the seat I was supposed to be in" when he was ticketed for Havana , but the U. According to Greenwald, Snowden's passport was valid when he departed Hong Kong but was revoked during the hours he was in transit to Moscow, preventing him from obtaining a ticket to leave Russia.

Greenwald said Snowden was thus forced to stay in Moscow and seek asylum. According to one Russian report, Snowden planned to fly from Moscow through Havana to Latin America; however, Cuba told Moscow it would not allow the Aeroflot plane carrying Snowden to land. Following Snowden's arrival in Moscow, the White House expressed disappointment in Hong Kong's decision to allow him to leave. Secretary of State John Kerry said that Snowden's passport was cancelled "within two hours" of the charges against Snowden being made public [3] which was Friday, June Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right.

A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum. Four countries offered Snowden permanent asylum: Ecuador, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Venezuela. Snowden said in July that he decided to bid for asylum in Russia because he felt there was no safe way to reach Latin America. On the issue, he said "some governments in Western European and North American states have demonstrated a willingness to act outside the law, and this behavior persists today.

This unlawful threat makes it impossible for me to travel to Latin America and enjoy the asylum granted there in accordance with our shared rights. Four months after Snowden received asylum in Russia, Julian Assange commented, "While Venezuela and Ecuador could protect him in the short term, over the long term there could be a change in government.

In Russia, he's safe, he's well-regarded, and that is not likely to change. That was my advice to Snowden, that he would be physically safest in Russia. In an October interview with The Nation magazine, Snowden reiterated that he had originally intended to travel to Latin America: They did not want that; they chose to keep me in Russia.

On July 1, , president Evo Morales of Bolivia , who had been attending a conference in Russia, suggested during an interview with Russia Today that he would consider a request by Snowden for asylum.

Assange responded that the plan "was not completely honest, but we did consider that the final result would have justified our actions. The result was caused by the United States' intervention. We can only regret what happened. Snowden applied for political asylum to 21 countries. Biden had telephoned President Rafael Correa days prior to Snowden's remarks, asking the Ecuadorian leader not to grant Snowden asylum.

After evaluating the law and Snowden's situation, the French interior ministry rejected his request for asylum. Germany and India rejected Snowden's application outright, while Austria, Ecuador, Finland, Norway, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain said he must be on their territory to apply.

Putin said on July 1, , that if Snowden wanted to be granted asylum in Russia , he would be required to "stop his work aimed at harming our American partners. In a July 12 meeting at Sheremetyevo Airport with representatives of human rights organizations and lawyers, organized in part by the Russian government, [] Snowden said he was accepting all offers of asylum that he had already received or would receive. He added that Venezuela's grant of asylum formalized his asylee status, removing any basis for state interference with his right to asylum.

Amid media reports in early July attributed to U. Attorney General Eric Holder repudiated Snowden's claim to refugee status, and offered a limited validity passport good for direct return to the U. On June 14, , United States federal prosecutors filed a criminal complaint against Snowden, charging him with theft of government property and two counts of violating the Espionage Act of through unauthorized communication of national defense information and willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person.

The charge was initially secret and was unsealed a week later. Snowden was asked in a January interview about returning to the U. Snowden explained why he rejected the request: They don't allow me to defend myself in an open court to the public and convince a jury that what I did was to their benefit.

So it's, I would say, illustrative that the President would choose to say someone should face the music when he knows the music is a show trial. He was not granted permanent political asylum.

A subject of controversy, Snowden has been variously called a hero , [] [] [] a whistleblower , [] [] [] [] a dissident , [] a patriot , [] [] [] and a traitor.

Numerous high-ranking current or former U. In June , U. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont wrote on his blog, "Love him or hate him, we all owe Snowden our thanks for forcing upon the nation an important debate. But the debate shouldn't be about him. It should be about the gnawing questions his actions raised from the shadows. Snowden said in December that he was "inspired by the global debate" ignited by the leaks and that NSA's "culture of indiscriminate global espionage At the end of , however, The Washington Post noted that the public debate and its offshoots had produced no meaningful change in policy, with the status quo continuing.

In , on The Axe Files podcast , former U. Attorney General Eric Holder said that Snowden "performed a public service by raising the debate that we engaged in and by the changes that we made. In September , the bipartisan U.

House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence completed a review of the Snowden disclosures and said that the federal government would have to spend millions of dollars responding to the fallout from Snowden's disclosures.

In August , President Obama said that he had called for a review of U. Stone said there was no evidence that the bulk collection of phone data had stopped any terror attacks. On June 6, , in the wake of Snowden's leaks, conservative public interest lawyer and Judicial Watch founder Larry Klayman filed a lawsuit claiming that the federal government had unlawfully collected metadata for his telephone calls and was harassing him.

Obama , Judge Richard J. Leon referred to the NSA's "almost-Orwellian technology" and ruled the bulk telephony metadata program to be probably unconstitutional. Pauley III came to the opposite conclusion. Clapper , although acknowledging that privacy concerns are not trivial, Pauley found that the potential benefits of surveillance outweigh these considerations and ruled that the NSA's collection of phone data is legal.

Gary Schmitt, former staff director of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, wrote that "The two decisions have generated public confusion over the constitutionality of the NSA's data collection program—a kind of judicial 'he-said, she-said' standoff. The decision voided U. District Judge William Pauley's December finding that the NSA program was lawful, and remanded the case to him for further review.

The appeals court did not rule on the constitutionality of the bulk surveillance, and declined to enjoin the program, noting the pending expiration of relevant parts of the Patriot Act. Circuit Judge Gerard E. Lynch wrote that, given the national security interests at stake, it was prudent to give Congress an opportunity to debate and decide the matter.

On June 2, , the U. Senate passed, and President Obama signed, the USA Freedom Act which restored in modified form several provisions of the Patriot Act that had expired the day before, while for the first time imposing some limits on the bulk collection of telecommunication data on U. The new restrictions were widely seen as stemming from Snowden's revelations. The non-binding resolution denounced unwarranted digital surveillance and included a symbolic declaration of the right of all individuals to online privacy.

In an official report published in October , the United Nations special rapporteur for the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of speech, Professor David Kaye , criticized the U.

The report found that Snowden's revelations were important for people everywhere and made "a deep and lasting impact on law, policy and politics. Surveys conducted by news outlets and professional polling organizations found that American public opinion was divided on Snowden's disclosures, and that those polled in Canada and Europe were more supportive of Snowden than respondents in the U.

For his global surveillance disclosures, Snowden has been honored by publications and organizations based in Europe and the United States. He was voted as The Guardian ' s person of the year , garnering four times the number of votes as any other candidate.

He participated by teleconference carried over multiple routers running the Google Hangouts platform. Represented on stage by a robot with a video screen, video camera, microphones and speakers, Snowden conversed with TED curator Chris Anderson , and told the attendees that online businesses should act quickly to encrypt their websites.

In March , while speaking at the FIFDH international human rights film festival he made a public appeal for Switzerland to grant him asylum, saying he would like to return to live in Geneva, where he once worked undercover for the Central Intelligence Agency.

Whistleblowers, National Security and Free Expression," event. On March 19, , Snowden delivered the opening keynote address of the LibrePlanet conference, a meeting of international free software activists and developers presented by the Free Software Foundation.

The conference was held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was the first such time Snowden spoke via teleconference using a full free software stack, end-to-end. On July 21, , Snowden and hardware hacker Bunnie Huang , in a talk at MIT Media Lab 's Forbidden Research event, published research for a smartphone case, the so-called Introspection Engine , that would monitor signals received and sent by that phone to provide an alert to the user if their phone is transmitting or receiving information when it shouldn't be for example when it's turned off or in airplane mode , a feature described by Snowden to be useful for journalists or activists operating under hostile governments that would otherwise track their activities through their phones.

In July , media critic Jay Rosen defined The Snowden Effect as "Direct and indirect gains in public knowledge from the cascade of events and further reporting that followed Edward Snowden's leaks of classified information about the surveillance state in the U. Snowden's impact as a public figure has been felt in cinema, [] [] advertising, [] video games, [] [] literature, [] [] music, [] [] [] statuary, [] [] and social media.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Edward Snowden Snowden in Map of global NSA data collection. Global surveillance disclosures —present. Evo Morales grounding incident. Edward Snowden asylum in Russia. Reactions to global surveillance disclosures.

Commentary on Edward Snowden's disclosure. Awards received by Edward Snowden. Edward Snowden in popular culture. Biography portal Freedom of speech portal Government of the United States portal Information technology portal Intelligence portal.

Yuen explained that Snowden's full name was inconsistent, and his U. Yuen said he spoke to U.

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