Now that NSA (National Security Agency) snitch, Edward Snowden, is on the run from Hawaii to Hong Kong to Moscow and parts yet to be determined, his actions have raised even more questions. Democratic Perspective addressed many of these on June 24, 2013.
To help address some of the questions, we enlisted the help of Chuck Williamson who, prior to working in the banking industry, served in a military surveillance unit in Vietnam. As a result, he is intimately familiar with information gathering and analysis.
Yet even with Chuck’s expertise, we must acknowledge that we have more questions than answers.
1. Why was Snowden, who worked for a private contractor, allowed seemingly unfettered access (if you believe his claims) to so much information? How much was he able to download on his computers?
2. What does Snowden intend to do with the information? Why did he flee to our nation’s biggest rivals? His actions give the impression that he may intend to sell or share that information with China and Russia.
3. What is the legitimate role of Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian newspaper in reporting this story? Did he go beyond merely reporting the story? Is he, in reality, an accomplice? If so, is he protected by the first amendment?
4. Does the data collection go beyond the sharing of Metadata by search engines, Internet Service Providers, and phone companies?
5. Who is really surprised that the government is collecting data in order to prevent terrorist attacks? The citizens of many other nations seem less surprised than our own. Indeed, a survey of most Europeans indicates that they were already aware of, or expected, the collection of data.
6. How much is the reaction of US citizens shaped by our ideological divide? Ironically, Glenn Beck and Sen. Rand Paul are on the same side of the issue as many liberal Democrats, and Dick Cheney is on the same side as the Obama administration.
7. How important are generational divides in the debate? It appears that those who grew up with the Internet believe that the government should share all information with the public in much the same way they believe that music, photos, editorial content and movies on the Web should be free.
8. Since most of the data collected by the government is already being collected by private corporations (AT&T, Verizon, Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, banking institurions, retailers, etc.), is the government really violating the fourth amendment?
9. How much information should corporations be allowed to collect? Is it okay that Facebook knows many details of our private lives? Is it okay that companies, such as Amazon, know our buying habits? Is it okay that banking institutions and credit card companies collect data on all of our financial transactions?
10. What role should private corporations, such as Booz Allen Hamilton, play in our government operations, especially secret operations? Should the government be using private contractors in such sensitive operations?
All of these questions and more have been raised by the Snowden story. It’s time (probably long past time) that the American public and our representatives have an open and honest discussion about these issues.
In that regard, Edward Snowden has done us all a big favor.