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Can’t Snow in the Snowden

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Marcellus Edwards

Mass Communication

November 19th, 2018

Can’t Snow in the Snowden

For years the NSA spied on the citizens of the United States of America and they were none the wiser. The National Security Agency alleged that all of this wire-tapping, backdoors in web browser, and collection of private information was all in the name of national security. The NSA was able to get massive amounts of personal data without permission or knowledge that it was being taken until the whistleblower Edward Snowden informed the Guardian about the unlawful and arguably unconstitutional actions of the National Security Agency. Post-Snowden the national security game has changed and there are numerous complaints and lawsuits being lodged against the NSA and other security agencies that also use harmful collection techniques. Whistleblowers like Edward Snowden are a crucial element in American politics domestic and international, and Snowden should be seen as patriot rather than a traitor.  

Edward Joseph Snowden was born June 21, 1983 in North Carolina. Snowden was raised in a family that was extremely committed to the federal government and specifically national security as the majority were employed by the Armed forces or the Federal Bureau of Intelligence. He is an extremely skilled computer software professional who has worked for various security institutions such as the NSA and Central Intelligence Agency. Although he did not reveal the NSA’s activities until 2013, Snowden questioned the United States’ use of millions of wiretaps and other types of online surveillance as early as 2006 and possibly before. Politically, Edward Snowden is unsurprisingly a mass supporter of both political and personal liberties (Harding 2014).  Post Snowden leaks, he has been fleeing from the American government and national security forces. Snowden currently resides in Russia and he has obtained political asylum until 2020 and can apply for more extensions soon although he is seeking either a pardon or political asylum in another country.  

On September 11, 2001 the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were targets of a foreign terrorist attack that shocked the world. Due to this tragedy the United States government decided to give near unlimited time and money to their national security agencies. The NSA, DHS, CIA, and FBI all were given the capability to spy on American citizens and keep that information in order to thwart a potential terrorist attack. The legal authorization for the spying was signed by George W. Bush on October 26, 2001 and was titled the USA Patriot Act or the

Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism. The Patriot act opened new doors for surveillance agencies and created the so called “surveillance state” that United States citizens live in today. The act made it easier for law enforcement agencies to get warrants and allowed them to follow and keep track on potential terrorists without ever alerting them. The Patriot act also allowed the United States federal government through the National Security Agency to collect any records concerning a potential terrorist regardless of if they happened prior to questionable activity. The next section of the Patriot Act allowed for the sharing of spy technology and collected information to be shared between governments to “connect the dots”, however all that this accomplished was to create a massive surveillance organization call the “Five Eyes” which possesses the capability to spy on citizen not only in the United States but nearly anywhere in Europe and the portions of the Middle East as well (Hays 2016). The third section of the Patriot Act provides law enforcement with the means to track anyone through their online data and keep records of their browser activity without their knowing. The final section of the Patriot Act increased the punishment for suspected terrorist. This has led to the controversy surrounding Guantanamo Bay and their treatment of their prisoners who are held without bail and no knowledge of if or when they get a trial as well as increasing the maximum punishments for anyone who commits an act of terror. The Patriot Act not only increased the power of the NSA and other national security agencies but it gave them access to personal data of hundreds of millions of Americans without giving them any warning they were the target of an investigation or a wiretap.

The Patriot act alone did not lead to the massive controversy surrounding the debate on national surveillance. The major reason behind the debate is simply that the NSA and FBI went too far with their surveillance. The court system that was established by the Patriot Act and following legislation was called the FISA court, Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Court. This court has failed the American citizens as it is often called a “rubber stamp court” because it approved roughly 99 percent of all cases that were presented to it and often times the court would not require a testimony or even reasonable suspicion for the wiretap. The lack of a credible standard for reasonable suspicion allowed the court and law enforcement agencies to just decide whether or not a person seemed likely to commit a terrorist attack. More often than not the deciding factor for the placement of surveillance was around race of religion. The NSA would place surveillance primarily on the Muslim community or people of Middle Eastern descent. This logic is flawed for a few reason. The first flaw is that terrorism in the United States is largely committed by right-winged white terrorist organizations. The second flaw is that by placing surveillance onto the Islamic community it alienates them from wanting to come forward about a potential terrorist threat because they then believe they will the target of more scrupulous surveillance or even imprisoned for knowledge of a terrorist act, which is allowed under Section 4 of the Patriot Act. The lack of proper reasoning to place surveillance is viewed by some as a breach of the fourth amendment to the Constitution and a sign of blatant racism committed by law enforcement agencies. The FBI surveillance operations have also massively expanded post 9/11. Under the Mukasey Guidelines that were instituted by President Bush’s attorney general the FBI is allowed to wiretap anyone without the need for reasonable suspicion, place informants in activist groups, target surveillance at religious and racial communities, and obtain access to thousands of websites and companies online records. The problems with the Mukasey Guidelines are obvious. The first major problem is the same as the NSA’s, which is that it allows the wiretapping of any person at any time and in any place. The FBI does not have to go through the



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