Updated August 3, 2013
Edward Snowden’s status as hero or traitor is of far less import than the awareness his whistle blowing has brought to just how pervasive and extensive the U.S. government’s spying on its own citizens and allies has become.
by Avi McClelland-Cohen
Update: Russia granted Edward Snowden temporary asylum on August 1, 2013. Details below.
“We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution." –John F. Kennedy
"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -- George Orwell
Having escaped the grasps of a hungry empire, the Founding Fathers and Mothers of the United States knew well about government overreach, and took care to include numerous protections in the Constitution: freedom of speech, freedom from self-incrimination, the right to peaceably assemble, and more. The Fourth Amendment in particular enshrines enumerated rights to be free from government abuse of search and seizure: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” For over a century, this Amendment protected Americans from warrantless searches and surveillance, including of the mail they sent via post and the thoughts they logged in their personal communiqués.
The national security era opened with the creation of the National Security Agency (NSA) in 1952. NSA is responsible for code making, code breaking, and, of course, intelligence services for the Department of Defense, CIA, and other members of the U.S. intelligence community. The budget would grow to undisclosed billions over the next decades. In the 1980s, privatization began the expansion of private contractors and non-governmental employees working for the defense industry. Communication technology became more sophisticated, the mission of the NSA more complex and oversight more difficult. Following September 11, 2001 and passage of the PatriotAct, NSA’s Orwellian mission solidified.