Last month, former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden leaked a series of classified government documents that raised concerns for members of the American public as well as government officials. The information released was pertaining to two US surveillance programs. One program was reported to mine the cell phone data of certain users. While it did not listen on the calls, it tracked to whom the calls were going and their duration. Special attention was paid to calls made by non-US citizens abroad. The other program had to do with data mining from the internet using people’s emails and personal accounts in order to identify interest of national security. It was said that the information was kept for long periods of time, even if the people on whom the data was collected were not seen as potential or current threats to national security.
The United States government has been divided on its response to the Snowden issue. Some officials and agencies have called him a traitor and feel that he has deeply hurt the countries counter-terrorism efforts, especially because some documents had to be declassified in order to provide an appropriate explanation to these allegations. It is also believed that Snowden’s disclosures have hurt the efforts of Brittan who have been collaborating with the United States. It has been said by NSA officials that several possible attacks have been thwarted due to this data mining program but no documents have been released as of yet to back up those claims. There are the others however who are thankful that Snowden acted in the way he did for the sake of privacy. Many Americans believe that while the government should do the best possible job of protecting its citizens, it should not overstep its bounds and violate its citizens right to privacy and there is a thin line between protecting the country and going too far. There are also countries abroad who were not pleased with the disclosures and have asked the US to stop immediately as well as answer the complaints filed against it.
Snowden has not been able to return to the United States since he fled for Hong Kong prior to releasing all of this information. If he were to return to the United States, he would be brought up on espionage charges. His concern however, and the concern those who are assisting him, is that upon his return to the United States, he will not get the fair trial that he is entitled to. Because he cannot return home, or feels that it is in his best interest not to, Snowden has applied for asylum in over 20 countries, the majority of those request being denied. Some were denied based on technical reasons such as needing to be within the countries boarders to apply for asylum. Snowden still holds that a lot of his requests have been denied due to interference from the US government.
Snowden had been residing in the transit zone of the Sheremeteov airport in Russia unable to leave his passport had been revoked. Russia had expressed a willingness to offer him asylum but the only condition is that he stop leaking US intelligence secrets, a term that Snowden was not pleased with and caused him to withdraw his original request for asylum. Russia, like most nations that Snowden applied to for asylum, is concerned about jeopardizing their relationships with the United States. He has received an offer from Venezuela and two other countries, but currently has no way to get there due to the lack of valid traveling papers. He applied for, and was granted, temporary asylum in Russia until he can get his travel documents in order; this decision was seen by many members of congress as a sign of disrespect to the current administration. In congress, some representatives have suggested that the US boycott the 2014 Olympics to be held in Russia if the Snowden issue hasn’t been resolved by that time. Snowden is now able to leave the airport and live and work in Russia however, he is stull unable to leave the country as of yet.
Whether you feel that he is a hero or a traitor, Snowden did do something useful for the American public and government agencies; he got people talking. The government has had to be more transparent about the reaches of their surveillance programs in order to respond to disgruntled citizens and countries. Transparency was Snowden’s initial goal, in addition to protecting people’s privacy rights so even if things going forward do not go well for him, he can consider his mission as accomplished.
information for this report taken from usatoday.com and Wikipedia.