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Understanding the Edward Snowden Whistle-blowing Case


BRADENTON – Every once in a while, a story so big and complex comes along that despite total media saturation, getting your head around it can be difficult. The media firestorm surrounding NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has been intense, but many Americans are still asking what exactly he and what it all mean.s

public domain photo via wikimedia commons

Snowden, who worked as a contractor for both the CIA and NSA, leaked details of massive American and British surveillance programs that primarily targeted their own citizens, saying the leaks were intended to, “inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.”

Snowden worked with investigative reporter, Glenn Greenwald, who published a series of articles in The Washington Post and The Guardian, in which Snowden revealed information about domestic spying including the PRISM and Tempora programs. PRISM is an NSA, top-secret electronic surveillance program that collects cell-phone and internet data, while Tempora was a similar British project implemented by their GCHQ.

On June 14, federal prosecutors charged Snowden with theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information and willful communication of classified intelligence with an unauthorized person under the Espionage Act.

By the time the stories had hit the press, Snowden had already fled to Hong Kong, in whose courts he'd hoped to have his case heard. However, facing possible extradition, Snowden left Hong Kong and is thought to be headed to Ecuador.

U.S. officials and the mainstream media have in large part, been particularly harsh on Snowden. They've branded him a “traitor” who they say has done irreparable harm to U.S. security, a charge Greenwald called "laughable." After Snowden's flight, Greenwald has also become the target of similar attacks and at least one high-ranking Congressman has called for his arrest, accusing him of threatening to “release information that is going to kill Americans,” an unsubstantiated claim. 

Snowden's supporters have called him a hero, who has exposed the American people to unconstitutional violations of the 4th, 5th and 6th amendments, which has only escaped outrage because it is conducted in secret with no public access to the records of the court that supposedly monitors the program. Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers, has hailed Snowden as a hero and called his leak, “the most important in U.S. history,” including his own.

If Snowden returns to the United States to stand trial, he faces life in prison if convicted.

*UPDATE* Tuesday morning it was reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin had confirmed that Snowden had entered Russia, where he'd previously been expected to pass through en route elsewhere, and that as he had not broken any of the country's laws, Russian security forces had no intention of interfering with his travel.


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