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Snowden declares 'Mission Accomplished' in revealing interview with WP

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 24th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

It's mission accomplished for Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who has leaked the what may be the greatest secret in American history. Until last year, few Americans had any idea that they were being tracked and monitored in a manner akin to George Orwell's 1984.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - A lengthy story in the Washington Post tells how Snowden feels now that he has alerted the public to the surreptitious activities of the National Security Agency. Speaking from Moscow, Snowden told a reporter that he felt accomplished, but he wanted the conversation about surveillance to continue, that he should not be the focus of conversation.

"For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission's already accomplished," he said. "I already won. As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated. Because, remember, I didn't want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself," Snowden said in the report. "All I wanted was for the public to be able to have a say in how they are governed."

This month, the NSA has been placed in check by judicial reviews of its procedures, during which one judge described the practices as "almost Orwellian."

The Obama administration has pledged new guidelines for the NSA, to curtail at least some of the data collection on Americans. Somehow, nobody feels assuaged by this pledge. In the back of all minds is the wonder if the NSA will even bother complying in more than a ceremonial fashion.

Snowden still faces arrest and the likelihood of life behind bars, if he is intercepted by U.S. authorities or those friendly to the U.S.

Top security officials in the U.S. claim that the NSA program has prevented a repeat of a terrorist attack on the scale of 9/11. According to some, Snowden has damaged our ability to intercept terrorist threats. The NSA has already reported that terrorists have shifted their manner of communication in an effort to evade NSA surveillance. Of course, that the NSA is even aware of their new methods suggests the eye still sees much.

Snowden, who is seen as a traitor, a blabber of state secrets by most officials in government, is also seen as a folk hero by the man on the street. Washington Post put the question to him bluntly.

In his interview with The Post, Snowden noted matter-of-factly that Standard Form 312, the ¬classified-information nondisclosure agreement, is a civil contract. He signed it, but he pledged his fealty elsewhere.

"The oath of allegiance is not an oath of secrecy," he said. "That is an oath to the Constitution. That is the oath that I kept that Keith Alexander and James Clapper did not.

People who accuse him of disloyalty, he said, mistake his purpose.

"'I am not trying to bring down the NSA, I am working to improve the NSA,' he said. 'I am still working for the NSA right now. They are the only ones who don't realize it.'

"What entitled Snowden, now 30, to take on that responsibility?" The Post asked.

"That whole question - who elected you? - inverts the model," he said. "They elected me. The overseers."

"He named the chairmen of the Senate and House intelligence committees.

"Dianne Feinstein elected me when she asked softball questions" in committee hearings, he said. 'Mike Rogers elected me when he kept these programs hidden. . . . The FISA court elected me when they decided to legislate from the bench on things that were far beyond the mandate of what that court was ever intended to do. The system failed comprehensively, and each level of oversight, each level of responsibility that should have addressed this, abdicated their responsibility.

"It wasn't that they put it on me as an individual - that I'm uniquely qualified, an angel descending from the heavens - as that they put it on someone, somewhere," he said. "You have the capability, and you realize every other [person] sitting around the table has the same capability but they don't do it. So somebody has to be the first."

Despite the apologetics from Snowden in the Post interview, he still took it upon himself to reveal some of our nation's highest secrets to the world. Yet, who else would have done so?

Any questions of loyalty need to be carefully considered. Snowden could have sold the information. With the knowledge in his mind, he could buy citizenship and a comfortable life in any country of his choosing. Yet, he carefully released documents that discussed the nature of the NSA's activities but not all of the detail. In other words, he has released nothing that would specifically compromise the safety of U.S. agents, nor would improve surveillance programs in other countries.

Snowden also denied that Russia and China had his information and said he had no deals with either country despite spending time in both.

He also showed the Post reporter that his laptop was void of any such information.

Instead, Snowden has trusted his information to a few reporters and there is purportedly a plan to continue releasing information in the event of his capture or death-yet not all of it, not all at once. Snowden cited that such a "dead man's switch" where all the data would be released in the event of his death, would be suicide. Any nation that wanted to know everything at once would simply have him killed.

Snowden told the Post that he raised his concerns to his superiors, asking them what would the public think if the NSA's methods were on the front page of a newspaper. According to him, his superiors shunned such questions. Those same superiors have denied that Snowden ever expressed any concerns to them.

Snowden's most important distinction was that government was all-powerful. A valid critique of his concern is that private industry is also developing omniscient surveillance methods to track consumers and market to them. Private corporations already know much about individuals, thanks to Facebook and other data collection methods. The public is largely unaware of this.

But Snowden made clear that governments are unique.

The Post reported:

"'I believe the cost of frank public debate about the powers of our government is less than the danger posed by allowing these powers to continue growing in secret,' he replied, calling them 'a direct threat to democratic governance.

"In the Moscow interview, Snowden said, "What the government wants is something they never had before. they want total awareness. The question is, is that something we should be allowing?

"Snowden likened the NSA's powers to those used by British authorities in Colonial America, when 'general warrants' allowed for anyone to be searched. The FISA court, Snowden said, 'is authorizing general warrants for the entire country's metadata.

"'The last time that happened, we fought a war over it,' he said.

"Technology, of course, has enabled a great deal of consumer surveillance by private companies, as well. The difference with the NSA's possession of the data, Snowden said, is that government has the power to take away life or freedom.

"At the NSA, he said, "there are people in the office who joke about, 'We put warheads on foreheads.' Twitter doesn't put warheads on foreheads."

Snowden, in an open letter to Brazil, penned earlier this month made clear that the NSA's activities aren't about stopping terrorism-they are about control.

The question is, should the American public have a stake in that discussion? Do we want such control over ourselves and over other nations at the cost of all our privacy? Do we want to live in a state where the government has access to all of our secrets, our private lives, our sins, and our thoughts?

Snowden has given us an opportunity to consider a question that we didn't know was being asked and answered on our behalf. Snowden has given the American people a voice. Yes, our "security" situation may be changed, to some degree, whatever that means. However, only history will show if his deeds truly helped or hurt our nation.

Many of us fear our government more than terrorists. Indeed, history proves that government destroy more of their own people than outside forces. If true in this case, then Snowden is a hero to the American people, even if he betrayed his government.

Not every issue is colored in black and white.



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