Will The Real Traitors Please Stand Up?
Treason: The betrayal of a trust. The offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or the sovereign's family. There’sbeen a lot of talk about whether or not Edward Snowden is a traitor to the United States or a whistle blower and protector of the American people’s rights and liberties informing us about the NSA’s surveillance and data collecting program called “Prism”. I’m not going to tell you what to decide, but I’m going to try and convince you that the distinction for who and who isn’t a traitor is becoming more and more blurred as this fiasco continues.
First off, let’s turn a few pages back in American history to the time when Nixon was in office. Would we have ever learned about the Watergate scandal if it weren’t for a whistle blower(s) like Jim Felt (aka Deepthroat), or for Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post? Deepthroat kept his identity secret for 42 years before he was revealed to be Jim Felt. Edward Snowden has revealed his identity outright. Why would he do that if he were cognitively being dissonant with all the theatric reveals? Everybody knows that treason doesn’t look good on a resume, let alone calling out your own government on controversial activities. Would that be something a traitor would do? That sounds like something a cartoon villain would do if he wanted to betray his country. “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong… I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions," but "I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant”, Snowden said (The Guardian).
We’ve all suspected that our government has an overwhelming spy network, but we’ve never had a concrete idea of just how overwhelming. According to Snowden we’re all in the same boat with how our data is collected. Some of those who are indifferent feel that way because they think they have nothing to hide, but do we realize the full extent of the invasion of privacy that we are unseeingly, and unwittingly allowing using various sites on the Internet such as Google, Facebook, Skype, etc.? That being said, who are the real traitors here? Snowden? Or is it those at the NSA and other various government agencies compromising our constitution in order to ‘protect us’? What both sides seem to have in common is that they think they are doing what they are doing for the greater good.
Snowden states “If you’re not doing anything wrong, you’re being watched and recorded, and the storage capability of these systems increases every year consistently by orders of magnitude, and its getting to the point where you don’t have to have done anything wrong, you simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody, even by a wrong phone call, and then they can use the system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you’ve ever made, every friend you’ve ever discussed something with, and attack you on that basis; to sort of derive suspicion from an innocent life and paint anyone in the context of a wrongdoer”(The Guardian).The NSA feels that they are doing what they feel is in the country’s best interest in order to thwart terrorist attacks, which they have argued they have successfully done on a couple of occasions.
In contrast, officials say that Prism cannot be used to intentionally target any US citizen, any other US person, or anyone located within the United States. The Washington Post states the NSA identifies suspect communications using search terms designed to give it a 51% confidence rating that the target is foreign. The paper says the FBI to ensure no US citizen is named as a target then checks the queries (BBC).
Snowden retorts “if an NSA, FBI, CIA, DIA, etc analyst has access to query raw SIGINT databases, they can enter and get results for anything they want. Phone number, email, user id, cell phone handset id (IMEI), and so on - it's all the same. The restrictions against this are policy based, not technically based, and can change at any time. Additionally, audits are cursory, incomplete, and easily fooled by fake justifications. For at least GCHQ (UK intelligence), the number of audited queries is only 5% of those performed,” (The Guardian).
“In recent years, these programs, together with other intelligence, have protected the U.S and our allies from terrorist threats across the globe to include helping prevent the potential terrorist events over 50 times since 9/11,” stated Gen. Keith Alexander during a hearing at the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Sure, that sounds reassuring, but where is the evidence? Alexander said the full list of thwarted attacks will be provided to members of the House Intelligence committee Wednesday, but the intelligence community has decided to release only two of those events publicly. "If we give all those out, we give all the secrets of how we're tracking down the terrorists as a community, and we simply can't do that”, (ABC) added Alexander.
So far, 9/11 has been their prime example of what could have been thwarted had they possessed this level of surveillance at the time. It also doesn’t support their argument that even though we didn’t have that kind of early warning system back then, we were warned from our allies that an Al-Qaeda threat was imminent anyway, which our government chose not to take seriously.Thanks, Bush administration.
Snowden realizes the risks that come with revealing this sensitive information to the American people. US citizens live with the possibility every day that our government has factions that allegedly bypass Congress with their own agenda doing who knows what with our privacy amongst other things, but we haven’t really had a concrete idea of what we’re dealing with until now. It’s people like Snowden that this country needs to keep itself in check. There’s not much we can do about it without the right information, which seems like all Edward Snowden is trying to do. If he was out to hurt America, don’t you think he would have done so already?
A question that we must ask ourselves is how much longer are we going to stand by and do nothing to keep our government in check? Is it too late to do anything? If history has taught us anything, it’s that Empires rise and fall. Do we really want America to have this much power, and repeat history? Who are the real traitors here? Is it Snowden, or America itself? A line in the sand has been drawn. It’s time to pick a side.
-Kirk The Intern
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