A year ago began the not yet played out melee of the United States Government vs. Edward Snowden showdown. If the name Ed Snowden is familiar to you, but you’re unaware of his story, or it’s a little hazy, since it pertains to the spirit of this article, I’ll start by explaining what I know about the man.
Born in Elizabeth City, NC, in the early 80’s, Snowden was a notable computer whiz in his early years, and this passion led him to some pretty important and covert jobs for the American Government.
After he was injured in training to be a special forces officer for service in Iraq, Snowden fell into a job as a systems administrator and telecommunications officer for the CIA back in 2007. A few years into the gig he was sent to Switzerland where he witness fellow CIA agents get a big name Swiss banker drunk and then influence him to drive home, leading to the man’s arrest by the Swiss police, which then led to other CIA agents offering the banker a deal: make your Swiss bank’s operations transparent to the CIA and we’ll get you out of jail so you can put this whole mess behind you. It was a dirty trick to gain banking information—and it worked. This action by the American Government didn’t sit well with the morally uncompromising Snowden, and in 2009 he ended up leaving the CIA.
But he didn’t end up leaving the government for long. In 2012 Ed Snowden was back working his computer magic as an NSA—National Security Agency—contractor for Dell Computers, a company which handles the computer systems for many governments and intelligence agencies, where he was sent to work in Japan as a systems administrator, mostly protecting intelligence information from foreign hackers. It was during this time that Snowden began to work some hacking tricks of his own.
After procuring information that showed an illegal NSA plan in motion—one the average citizens of the world wouldn’t be very fond of—Snowden began frantically downloading classified documents and saving them to his own data discs. What he found were the records of clandestine programs which were fully operational, and which were collecting personal information on every government, organization, company, and person in the world. As he tells it, he tried multiple times to show the documents to his superiors and co-workers, but none of them had the balls to do anything:
“I made tremendous efforts to report these programs to co-workers, supervisors, and anyone with the proper clearance who would listen. The reactions of those I told about the scale of the constitutional violations ranged from deeply concerned to appalled, but no one was willing to risk their jobs, families, and possibly even freedom.” -Edward Snowden, quote from The New Yorker, 1/23/13.
At $122,000 a year, Snowden was making great money in Japan, but he then took a pay cut to go work for the company Booz Allen Hamilton when the opportunity arose, still as a high ranking NSA agent, but here his job was to hack into computer systems and phone networks around the world to collect intelligence data for the US government. The money wasn’t an issue though, according to Snowden, because he was receiving no help from the inside, he only worked there to collect more documents on the illegal actions of not only the NSA, but also British Intelligence, and Australian intelligence as well, in order to get them out to the press; and that’s exactly what he did.
After being turned down by a few publications, including the Guardian Magazine, his first choice, Snowden then turned to a documentary film maker, Laura Poitras, who had a reputation for making controversial films. After contacting her, Snowden then convinced her to get one of her associates, reporter for The Guardian, Glenn Greenwald, to hop on board and take a look at the data.
An encryption system and code names were devised for Snowden to begin secretly sending the documents via email; and what they contained was mind blowing to say the least. Led by the NSA, an unconstitutional operation was being executed by the intelligence arms of 4 of the “five eyes”: the US government (NSA), the Canadian government (CSEC), the Australian government (ASD), and the British government (GCHQ).
All of these countries had been spying on their citizens and recording phone conversations, emails, internet searches, coordinates, interests, hobbies, habits, affiliations, consumption, and any other type of data they could get their hands on since at least the 1990’s. Other documents stated the NSA was given $52 billion of taxpayers money—from the “black budget”—for the year of 2013 to increase the surveillance efforts. We had all been being tracked for decades and we didn’t even know it—or at least couldn’t prove it, until now.
“In a February 2012 paper…the paper…outlined some of the agency’s other ambitions. They included defeating the cybersecurity practices of adversaries in order to acquire the data the agency needs from ‘anyone, anytime, anywhere.’” -Quote from the New York Times 11/22/2013.
All of this information was recorded and stored away within the encrypted computer systems of the intelligence community; who had been getting away with it for so long that it’s estimated Snowden has only released 1% of the documents he took—an estimated 1.2 million classified records—to date. To quote Lon Snowden, “The worst is yet to come.”
The first publishing of the government damning files took place in early June—2013—in an issue of The Guardian. Snowden had told the NSA a few weeks prior that he needed a leave of absence to get treatment for a preexisting condition of epilepsy, which was granted, and he immediately left for Hong Kong—which is where he gave word to release the papers. After the article in the Guardian was published, Snowden’s stolen documents became front page news around the globe.
The mainstream media was all over the story, though they were sure to push the meme that Snowden was a traitor and deserved jail time for releasing classified documents; even though the documents were proof the governments themselves were the ones with information they had no right in having—but as they say: the media is just the fourth arm of the government. The US government, of course, is still calling for 30 years prison time for their ex-employee. Snowden, on the other hand, after some shaky times appealed to many countries for asylum and was allowed by the Russian government a year in their safety—which is where he still remains today.
“These programs were never about terrorism: they’re about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They’re about power.” -Edward Snowden, CNN, 12/18/2013.
Some consider Snowden a criminal; others feel he’s a hero. I can’t help but to agree with the latter, since I personally feel violated by the government of my country. What we do in our everyday lives, so long as we’re not hurting anyone, is nobodies business but our own; and all of us who live in the countries in which these illegal acts were committed have constitutions and charters of rights that are supposed to guaranty us this basic human right. To me it doesn’t matter that Edward Snowden released classified documents because they prove illegal activity and therefore they are evidence for a crime—a massive crime—committed by the people who wrote them; not the person who exposed them.
As we’ve discussed before, the majority of everyday people seem to be under a spell from the government and media which supports it, and these are the people repeating the “Snowden’s a criminal” mantra, but let’s put this in different terms of analogy—everyday terms—to paint the picture a little clearer: If one of your friends went into another one of your friends cell phone and saw a naked picture of you in it—that you didn’t let them take—and they saved it to show you proof; who would you be mad at? I find it hard to believe anyone would be mad at the friend who stole the picture—and not the person who snapped it. I would logically assume a person would be mad at the pervert who was spying on them at their most personal moment and documenting what they saw. Am I wrong? This situation is no different, except it’s not your friend spying on you; it’s your government, and they’re not just taking pictures, they’re taking everything, then sorting it, then saving it, then copying it, then studying it, then sharing it.
The privacy situation doesn’t end with Edward Snowden, though. As we discussed before in Government Spying: Harper’s Constant Phone and Internet Interception Attempts, (7/7/2014), dozens of countries have signed onto the Council of Europe’s: Treaty On Cyber Crime—a globalist effort to implement full governmental control online to track citizens’ phone and internet activities without warrants or, of course, their citizens knowledge; and though Canadians have caught onto a couple bills and voiced their disgust with them before they had a chance to sneak through the House, these intelligence types haven’t given up in the slightest. The efforts to spy on us are nowhere near over. In fact, they’ve done nothing but increase.
A few days ago in the National Post an article was run on the topic of license plate scanners. These are another tool the police are using to profile their citizens without them knowing. The name basically describes the function of these little machines: they’re used to scan license plates and log the cars information associated with them—make, year, color, common locations, owner, etc.—into a database.
These new plate scanners are predominantly used by parking companies to catch fair evaders, but it has been released that not only do the police in several cities around the globe use these things themselves, but the ones who don’t are paying other agencies—with the taxpayers money—for collected data; companies which drive around and document cars and log their activity all day. Which brings up another point; it isn’t just the government we have to worry about. The corporate world—which runs the government—is completely obsessed with gathering peoples personal information.
Let’s take Facebook for the easiest example. Aside from news that Facebook owner, Mark Zuckerberg, has been documented as meeting with the director of the FBI on more than one occasion, Facebook now is suspending new accounts in order to get their new user’s phone number, and deleting accounts unless the user’s information is correct—with a real profile picture of them and full given name as their display name—and asking for scanned copies of people ID’s, in the last few years Facebook has completely altered the way it’s website works in terms of what each user sees and experiences while logged into their account.
The tech guys at Facebook have rigged it so everything a person likes, writes, searches, views, what time they log in, how long they stay logged in, who they’re friends with, what events they attend, what pictures they upload, and everything else involved in the Facebook routine that you forget about is recorded and sorted—and never deleted. What this does is tailor the user’s experience for marketing purposes; and what that means is that the ads you see appearing on Facebook are ads Facebook believes you will respond to and click on. For example, if a person is into heavy metal music and visits and likes Facebook pages and events associated with heavy metal music, Facebook will show that person ads for products other people have bought who also like heavy metal music; or whatever niche market it is. Or, for another example, if a person is brown, likes airplanes, and opposes the government on some issues, their information will be likely handed over to a government agency and that person could disappear one day without a trace.
Twitter, Pinterest, G+, Instagram, they’re all designed for the same purpose. All of these companies which give free accounts that people voluntarily update with minute to minute play-by-plays of the most intimate parts of their lives are saving the information they are being provided with forever—and we were all told since the internet came out to never put our personal information on it all for this exact reason. The lists they own are worth billions. In fact, Google representatives have been quoted as saying every person who uses their website—12 billion searches a month alone—is worth $500 to them with the personal information they have banked—I’ll let you do the math. Marketing, it’s no secret, thrives off peoples personal information—and everything the capitalist environment presents a person with is marketing—from billboards, to magazines, to presidential addresses; they’re all selling us something.
To me at least, the amount of companies raking in money off the common person’s personal information through means of espionage is abhorrent, to say the least, but the government’s attempts—and successes—at doing it is a million times worse; especially since they’ve gone to such lengths to do it behind our backs. With every move we make possibly being recorded in a file forever is the establishment’s way of looking for criminals before they strike; guilty until prove innocent in other words, and that is not what our “free” countries stand for—or so we are told, at least, but actions speak louder than words. With that kind of power at their disposal you can become a person of interest to the authorities and they can instantly have your entire life story in front of them; and they can use any part of it as ammunition to target you further; or worse. Coupled with the many other Orwellian stories thick in the air out there about the socialist/fascist agenda of the US government and the organizations which control it and every other government through it, I think it’s really time we collectively wake up to what is being done to us, realize we’re not statistics in a totalitarian system, and refuse to stop volunteering our information to people who want it—without asking—so they can use it against us. We’re smarter than that.
Article written by Olan Thomas
This article was written and expressed for the purposes of education and philosophy and was not intended for the purpose of monetary profit of any sort.
Thanks for reading! Please subscribe and SHARE.