Invisible Puppeteers: Light Through the Fog Pt. 3

Andrew Wu

September 22, 2023

On May 20, 2013, a man hastily leaves the NSA facility, carrying information on his USB drive that would change the world forever. He reveals the truth about the lies of the US government, all in the interest of the American people. However, his revelations are met with a hostile response. Politicians demand his execution and label him as a traitor.

Edward Snowden is a former intelligence officer and one of the most famous whistleblowers. In 2013, he leaked classified documents while working as a contractor for the NSA. The documents revealed the existence of highly intrusive surveillance programs, such as the PRISM program and its collaboration with major tech companies, as well as phone metadata surveillance. Its purpose: to identify and combat terrorism and crime through suspicious keywords and content. These surveillance activities targeted not only foreign individuals but also American citizens, regardless of guilt.

Following the leaks, Snowden fled to Hong Kong and later sought refuge in Russia, where he has recently obtained citizenship. The media then published the leaked documents, triggering a global debate on privacy, surveillance, and whistleblowing.

Snowden's actions are very polarizing, either viewing him as a hero or a traitor. Nevertheless, many politicians responded by denouncing his actions as a threat to national security. Former President Obama stated, "If any individual who objects to government policy can take it into their own hands to publicly disclose classified information, then we will not be able to keep our people safe." Furthermore, former President Trump referred to Snowden as a "Traitor."

It is important to note that democracy means that it is run by the people, and the government's role is to serve and benefit its people.  If there is a clear violation that the government caused harm to its citizens, it fundamentally fails to fulfill its duty.

The PRISM program allowed the NSA to transfer data from with direct connections & backdoors. The involvement of spying on hundreds of millions of innocent US citizens certainly violates the Fourth Amendment. This amendment guarantees that, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures."It is clear that having access to anyone’s search Emails, videos, photos, VoIP, file transfers, etc for activity is clearly a search. It is unreasonable to turn America into a surveillance state and expect it to uphold the certified rights under the Constitution. A government defending a violation of their own law is simply hypocritical. The consistent upholding of law is what makes a democracy stable, there can be no expectations made. If the law itself is unjust then it should have the due process to change the law.

It is understandable that after 9/11, terrorism became a large concern for all Americans. However, people must consider the core issue at hand, which is combating terrorism. While terrorism is a shocking crime and a terrible way to die, mass surveillance programs have rarely demonstrated any significant impact on countering terrorism. 

Nevertheless, it becomes necessary for individuals to question the validity of mass spying, the invasion of privacy, and the violation of constitutional rights. Although Edward Snowden had good-intentions, he also violated the law by disclosing classified documents. Both the government and Snowden violated the law to some extent and thus both did wrong. 

Everything on the internet is said to be permanent, our privacy is slowly deteriorating by big data conglomerates and governments. Society must value privacy and as AI arms races increase, data has become the new gold. If you're not paying for the product, you are the product.