Thursday, 24 July 2014

Is Edward Snowden a whistleblower?

The claim that NSA leaker Edward Snowden is a whistleblower is hard to justify. The laws surrounding the rights of a journalist or whistleblower are full of grey areas. Things aren't black and white and they never have been.

But surely this applies to modern intelligence gathering requirements as well? Given today's technology, by necessity they will come closer to the everyday life of the average citizen. In the good old days, it was easy to send eyes and ears out to foreign lands where you knew all the bad guys were. 

There wasn't a liberal progressive on the planet who would have opposed the collection of Soviet missile telemetry in 1982. But now the bad guys are among us and using the same underground wires to talk that you use to call your friends. And yet the situation is the same: The NSA's job is to protect us from our enemies.

The NSA and GCSB must see your communications whiz by as they look for the bad communications, because there is no other way sort them out. If there were, the NSA would have figured out how by now.

In fact it's really unclear what Edward Snowden actually 'exposed' with his leaks. He tried to show the American public how the NSA was spying on its own citizens, but all he ended up exposing was an attempt to create a haystack of all the communications in order to find the needle of a terrorist or drug smuggler. Again, that's the only way to do this.

All he ever did was show the US public how the NSA was doing the job they were designed and paid to do in a new and very complex world. That people were concerned their privacy was being eroded was a natural feeling, but ultimately misguided. Nothing in Mr Snowden's leaks has proven that the NSA spies on US citizens out of habit. 

Stepping back for a moment, it's pretty much impossible for the NSA (even with its enormous budget) to spy on all US citizens at once. That's what the media and Mr Snowden want you to think, but that's simply not happening. They don't care what you're doing. The NSA is only trying to look for the threats. That can actually be proven in Mr Snowden's documents because those are the tools the NSA created.

So is Mr Snowden a whistle-blower, traitor or simply a very troubled young man? I'd say it's neither of the first two options, and probably the latter. The US public gained nothing by learning the secrets of the NSA, except to be morally outraged (if misguided in that outrage) and to learn a few things they maybe didn't need to know. 

But America's enemies lifted up the curtain of US espionage and set back the NSA and GCSB's intelligence gathering advantage significantly. Every free person on the planet is now in a more dangerous world because of Snowden's poorly thought-out political bias and youth.

I think the nomenclature of what Mr Snowden actually is should rely on the content of his claims. And so far, his leaks have not shown he was justified in taking those steps publicly. If he ever needs to be defended legally, I think he'll find it very difficult.

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