Preserving Liberty Essay

2372 words - 10 pages

Out the side window of Chapultepec Lupita Mexican Restaurant in Houston, Texas is a white Public Notary office with a colorful, geometric mural of a fierce bird rising against foreboding, building-like structures. In a corner atop the mural, Thomas Jefferson’s famous quote, “When government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny” stands for all to see. Beneath Jefferson’s wise words, the artist has declared Edward Snowden and Julian Assange heroes. While plenty government officials condemn the actions of these demonized “hacktivists,” reconsider the summer of 2013, when Americans sat aghast in their living rooms as reporters broke stories of the mass surveillance of American citizens through the collection of phone records and user data from major American companies (i.e. Apple, Verizon, Facebook, and Google) by the National Security Agency (NSA) (Scherer and Shuster). In early June 2013, several days following the first reports, Edward Snowden, a thirty year-old libertarian, and former NSA contractor, personally claimed responsibility for leaking the documents that proved the privacy infringements (Scherer and Shuster). For the duration of the summer the world watched on as Snowden and allies avoided the American manhunt like characters from a Mission Impossible movie, concluding when Russia granted Snowden asylum for a year (Scherer and Shuster). Snowden has been labeled everything from a “dangerous traitor” to a “Dark Prophet” and a “Patriot.” Whatever he is, Snowden should be applauded for informing the world of mass surveillance from numerous governments in the information age; his resistance to government’s abuse of power; and sparking debate and reform of the intelligence gathering community. Snowden may continue to be labeled as the media and government please, but it is undeniable his government fears him and his young sympathizers; it is undeniable, he has assisted in the preservation of Liberty by exposing the classified NSA program.
The Snowden Files have revealed five major NSA programs that should raise concern: PRISM, Tempora, upstream data collection, phone data collection, and encryption cracking. PRISM is likely the most controversial of the NSA programs because documents proving its existence claim, “The National Security Agency has obtained direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US internet giants” (MacAskill). While these companies deny granting the NSA direct access to servers that store user data, Google has confirmed the “‘[disclosure of] user data to government in accordance with the law, and [Google] review[s] all such requests carefully’” (qtd in MacAskill). Access to PRISM is also available to the British intelligence agency, Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ), which runs Tempora, a program that collects all data going in and out of...

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