WASHINGTON, October 16, 2013 — Edward Snowden, former contractor for the National Security Agency and whistleblower, revealed to the world that the NSA is spying not only on America’s enemies but also on U.S. citizens.
Now having taken temporary asylum in Russia, Snowden has revealed that the NSA’s mass surveillance program tracks American’s phone calls, internet use, website access and other types of communication. Americans have no idea they are being watched. Snowden also suggested that this information, if it is ever in the wrong hands, could be a direct threat to the American public. Snowden said he believes the government will one day use this information against its own citizens, under the pretense of “national security.”
A U.S. federal court charged Snowden with the crime of violating the interest of national security, as well as espionage for revealing secret programs whose purpose is to protect Americans from outside threats or terrorist activities. If Snowden were to reveal secret information to our enemies abroad, it could damage our nation’s security and pose a danger to covert operatives.
Snowden claimed that the U.S. government directly hacked into Hong Kong and Chinese networks for the last four years. Sadly, he didn’t seem to realize that once classified information like this is revealed, it can directly complicate foreign diplomacy. In Snowden’s first interview, he revealed knowledge about covert NSA operations to a Chinese news publication, the “South China Morning Post.” He told Chinese reporters that the NSA hacked into Chinese universities, businesses, personal accounts and government documents.
The ramifications of that revelation on our diplomatic and economic relations with China could be profound, but the damage won’t stop there. Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff, outraged that her own communications have been compromised, has called for an end to American domination of the internet. If she is successful, the result could be an internet in which there is even less privacy as local governments take control. The impact on some of America’s largest firms — including Google and Microsoft — will be serious.
Some critics have raised questions about NSA’s activities as the result of Snowden’s revelations. Former Texas Congressman Ron Paul called Eric Snowden a “hero” for publicly revealing details of the secret NSA program. Paul, a self proclaimed libertarian, already believes that NSA operations are a direct attack on our nation’s right to privacy. Since President Bush signed the Patriot Act, the right to privacy has taken second place to national security. Surveillance has now become our newest weapon against foreign threats, even against homegrown terrorism — but there is a cost for everything.
Surveillance by the U.S. government against its own people is nothing new. Under J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI was notorious for targeting American citizens. Groups targeted under the COINTEL PRO program included progressive students, anti-Vietnam activists, black civil rights leaders, members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Congress of Racial Equality, black nationalist groups and the National Lawyers Guild. Hoover used this operation for illegal searches, hunting for information on those persons he considered a threat to the United States.
Any form of illegal spying by the federal government directly violates our civil liberties and our rights to privacy. Snowden’s actions, legal or illegal, are bringing to light the reasons why any form of spying by a government agency must have Congressional oversight.
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