Whether former National Security Agency contractor, Edward Snowden, is a hero or a criminal for releasing classified documents to the media about the activities of the NSA, he has ignited a discussion about the way our government exercises its power.
56 percent of people believed that the courts have not provided adequate limits on what data the government collects, according to a July Pew Research Poll.
It began with an article from The Guardian reporting that the NSA was routinely collecting phone records from Verizon – a part of a series of other leaks that The Guardian and The Washington Post began revealing June 6 about the NSA’s surveillance methods.
“I don’t see myself as a hero,” Snowden later told The Guardian, “because what I’m doing is self-interested: I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity.”
Since then, more information has come in about the NSA, guided by Snowden’s secret documents.
We now know that the NSA has collected phone and email records for several years, storing over a billion cellphone calls daily.
Under the surveillance program named PRISM, the NSA has targeted at least 120,000 Internet users.
It has collected some of its data through installed government equipment and at some of the major technology companies, such as Google, Skype, Microsoft and Facebook. The organization receives live notifications of targets’ online activities through this route.
Most recently, the media has reported the United States has been involved in widespread international espionage, spying on even our allies and various political leaders throughout the world.
With the details being released, there has been a noticeable shift in the way the public thinks of national security.
Since 2004, a majority of citizens have remarked that the government has not gone far enough to protect the country from terrorist attacks.
As of 2013, Pew reports that 47 percent of respondents think that the government has gone too far in restricting civil liberties, while 35 percent now believe the government hasn’t done enough to protect us – down from a previous 58 percent.
The full impact this surveillance has on the general population is not known, but we do know that people have already been arrested on terrorism charges for posts written publicly on social media.
A Massachusetts high school student, Cameron D’Ambrosio, was arrested on charges of communicating a terroristic threat, from a Facebook post written two weeks after the Boston Marathon bombing.
D’Ambrosio posted a rap-like monologue blaming Washington for the bombing, and also stated, “f— a boston bombinb [sic] wait till u see the shit I do.” He was held in prison for a month without bail, but has since been released.