Snowden’s whistle blowing causes a storm
Nearly everyone has heard the name Edward Snowden or the term PRISM. Glenn Greenwald, a reporter from the Guardian, reported classified information regarding the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs after receiving data from a low-level employee at Booz Allen Hamilton, a technology firm hired by the government as a private contractor.
Snowden, the former employee of Booz Allen Hamilton, may have uncovered something no one truly expected from an administration who has repeatedly boasted about its transparency.
The NSA is currently mining data from phone records, internet history and other private information looking for patterns to foil terror plots.
Greenwald, proponent of government transparency and a supporter of whistleblowers, has led the public to believe he has classified information to release.
The actual issues behind the NSA’s PRISM program haven’t been as interesting to many as Snowden. The media has lacked in covering the current administration, as well as the previous Bush administration, and are not only trampling on our right to privacy, but also convincing the mainstream media and a majority of the U.S. population that it’s completely acceptable.
The concept of whistleblowers isn’t new and neither is the public’s general distaste for them.
However, Snowden is hiding out in a hotel in Hong Kong, and Bradley Manning is being prosecuted for releasing classified information during his time in the U.S. Army while being stationed in Iraq.
While Manning did release information with specific names of both CIA agents and local citizens working with the U.S. forces that could potentially cost lives, Snowden has merely released information regarding a far-reaching government surveillance program.
Several hots on 24-hour news networks advance the erroneous belief that he is endangering U.S. citizens’ lives.
“Snowden hasn’t put anyone in danger—he’s revealed a government program. The bigger question about whistleblowers should be how many people they’ve helped by revealing such destructive and intrusive institutional programs,” said UH history professor Robert Buzzanco.
Buzzanco has spent much time researching the Pentagon Papers, released by whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg in 1971.
Ellsberg was similarly smeared as being a traitor, but was later acquitted.
The same will not happen for Manning or Snowden, if he’s extradited from Hong Kong.
A life on the run or years in prison may not seem worth it for many Americans. Some shrug the NSA’s PRISM program off and have said that they suspected it was happening.
“At this point, the main way, maybe the only way, we find out about these government efforts it through whistleblowers like the ones mentioned above or through technological groups like WikiLeaks or Anonymous,” Buzzanco said.
Without an open dialogue regarding programs like NSA or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we can never truly advance and have a say in what our government is doing. Sure, many people speculated that the 2001 Patriot Act gave the government free reign as long as the ultimate goal wasn’t to trample on the rights of private citizens but to ensure another 9/11 doesn’t occur.
“Nothing in this case is new. There’s an old joke that spying is ‘the world’s second oldest profession’ but the scope of it is truly new and dangerous,” Buzzanco said.
There’s no need to launch attack campaigns against whistleblowers, nor is their a reason to romanticize those who leak the classified information.
Those who acted in what they thought was good faith and released the information are not of consequence. The information that is leaked is what should be the public’s focus.
These men gave up their freedom in order to ensure we, as American citizens, have a shot at electing a transparent, honest government.
Ellsberg, the whistleblower in the case of the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War, was interviewed after Snowden came forward as the leak for the NSA program. Ellsberg said the three whistleblowers “chose to give priority to our oath to defend and support the Constitution, rather than our promise to keep secrets for our boss or for our agency, when those secrets were concealing evidence that the Constitution was being violated.”
No matter what side of the coin you land on in regards to whether or not the NSA is acting appropriately, one cannot ignore the fact that whistleblowers releasing this information might be the only hope to hold the U.S. government accountable.
Caroline Giese is a public relations senior and may be reached at [email protected].