Just when you thought you could escape the madness of class just before finals, Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald leak another classified National Security Agency (NSA) document that shakes the world.
While their revelations that were released over the summer told the world about the expansiveness of the United States surveillance programs, the information that was leaked on Nov. 26 honed in on how the United States is using the metadata that it is collecting. While many Whitties put current events on the back-burner during the weeks that lead up to finals, it is important to keep this issue in the forefront of our minds because it is one of the most important issues that our generation has had to deal with.
On June 6, 2013, Edward Snowden leaked classified information about the NSA that sparked enormous controversy and changed the course of history. The first two leaks revealed the NSA’s metadata program that tracks and stores each phone call made by Americans –– although they blatantly lied to Congress about this earlier –– and the PRISM leak, which exposed how the NSA was given direct access to the systems of major internet companies, including Google, Apple and Facebook. So far, none of the leaks disclosed how the United States government sought to use the information that they were collecting. However, Snowden’s leak this last week revealed exactly that.
Last week, Snowden and Greenwald released documents pertaining to an NSA program that gathers information individuals in order to discredit them politically. The Huffington Post article by Greenwald is titled “Top-Secret Document Reveals NSA Spied On Porn Habits As Part Of Plan To Discredit ‘Radicalizers,'” and the documents that were released in the article outline exactly that. The documents explained how the NSA exposes “vulnerabilities … likely to call into question a radicalizer’s devotion to the jihadist cause, leading to the degradation or loss of his authority.” However, I believe that this leak raises further serious concerns on the legality and morality of the NSA’s policies.
The fact that the NSA can and will lie brings into question how far they will take this precedent. Their track record shows that they are above the law and are able to cover their tracks for the sake of national security –– however broad that definition may be. When the NSA can easily extract information from your own computer without your knowledge and can blatantly lie about how they are using it, how can we not question whether they will use their power to fabricate a fake story about somebody that they want to neutralize? They are the only ones with access to this information and they can lie to Congress, so who is going to stop them? We need to instill checks to their authority so that they cannot run rampant, breaking laws completely uncontested for the sake of national security.
While you might think that this leak does not affect you, you are wrong. I understand that the individuals that the NSA is targeting to neutralize may be bad dudes, but this is a dangerous mentality to have, especially when the NSA is able to blatantly lie without much, if any, oversight. Who’s to say that they will not –– or have not already –– expanded this policy to people other than “jihadist radicals”? In the digital age, it has never been easier for the NSA to collect dirt on people, so I think it’s reasonable to question whether they have expanded their policies to other individuals that they are targeting, even American citizens.
Now, I am not accusing the NSA of anything that they have not already stated or anything that has not been leaked about them. However, I think that their actions need to be questioned and the possibilities that these leaks raise need to be taken seriously. Keep in mind that Snowden’s recent leaks include only one percent of the documents that he has, and the “worst has yet to come.” As finals approach, I hope that we all keep these issues in mind as we strive to put our education to good use.