Edward Snowden and PRISM

edward-snowdenEarlier this month Edward Snowden was the 29-year-old former technical assistant for Booz Allen Hamilton who worked on a contract for the CIA and the National Security Agency and uncovered one of the most frightening secrets of the agencies spying on internet users in the history of US security.

He worked at the NSA for four years as a employee for outside contractors assigned with their computer systems. Presently his whereabouts is unknown due to his recent whistleblowing over the US security agencies use of a internet programme that he claimed had direct access to search engines and social networking sites

Even in light of the recent publicity that’s naturally arisen from the use of PRISM spy programme,it’s been recently announced that the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND) is planning to invest €100 million to improve its online security monitoring programme.

Edward Snowden from the moment he decided to disclose numerous top-secret documents to the public was determined not to opt for the protection of anonymity. “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” he said.

Snowden ranks with other whistleblowers unhappy with the US Government’s growing worldwide power and influence alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning. Snowden is responsible for handing over material the NSA though, one of the world’s most secretive organisations.

Snowden has said that he believes he will “be made to suffer for my actions,” but adds, “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.”

He is a man who is keen to avoid media publicly “I don’t want public attention because I don’t want the story to be about me. I want it to be about what the US government is doing.”

Despite possibly being demonised in the media, such was the fate of other whistle-blowers such as Julian Assange & Bradley Manning he remains hopeful his outing will not divert attention from the importance of disclosure. “I really want the focus to be on these documents and the debate which I hope this will trigger among citizens around the globe about what kind of world we want to live in.” He added: “My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.”

Snowden had a comfortable life, which included a salary of roughly $200,000, a  home in Hawaii, and good family that but was willing to take the risk in sacrificing this because he couldn’t find it in his conscience to allow the US government to destroy fundamental privacy and basic liberties for people around the world using the internet against the “massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.”

What Happened

Whilst working at the NSA office in Hawaii he copied the last set of documents he intended to disclose. He then advised his NSA supervisor that he needed to be away from work for “a couple of weeks” in order to receive treatment for epilepsy –  a condition he experienced in the past.

He informed his girlfriend and family that he would be away for a few weeks, though he said that although vague about the reason it was not uncommon for someone in his security position to not be forthcoming in his movements.

On May 20, he boarded a flight to Hong Kong, where he has remained ever since. He chose the city because “they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent”, and because he believed that it was one of the few places in the world that both could and would resist the dictates of the US government.

In the three weeks since he arrived, he has been ensconced in a hotel room. “I’ve left the room maybe a total of three times during my entire stay,” he said. It is a plush hotel and, what with eating meals in his room too, he has run up big bills.He is deeply worried about being spied on. He lines the door of his hotel room with pillows to prevent eavesdropping. He puts a large red hood over his head and laptop when entering his passwords to prevent any hidden cameras from detecting them.

Though that may sound like paranoia to some, Snowden has good reason for such fears. He worked in the US intelligence world for almost a decade. He knows that the biggest and most secretive surveillance organisation in America, the NSA, along with the most powerful government on the planet, is looking for him.

He has evaluated his actions and believes he did the right thing in exposing the information and whilst companies and Government both in the US and the UK have been quick to deny the exact use of the PRISM Spy programme – Edward Snowden believes he is happy to have provided transparency. 

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