By Lobsang Wangyal
MCLEOD GANJ, India, 4 July 2013
Edward Snowden captured the world’s attention after he divulged shocking details of a secret United States government mass surveillance and espionage programme known as PRISM. Snowden continues to remain in the headlines around the world as he evades the reach of the US government.
The case has been a major embarrassment for the Obama administration, which now faces criticism around the world for the huge privacy-invading programme and world-wide covert cyber operations that Snowden revealed.
Former CIA and National Security Agency Director, Michael Hayden, has said that the United States does conduct espionage on US citizens and in other countries besides the US. He also said that the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, protecting the basic human right of privacy of American citizens, is not an international treaty.
Snowden, a former contractor for the US National Security Agency (NSA – a branch of the US Defence Department), flew to Hong Kong to reveal this mass surveillance. The US government says its operations were aimed at gathering intelligence on individuals that are troublesome to the establishment, in order to thwart terrorism.
Snowden said, “I can’t allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties.”
The US government prosecutors have charged Snowden with espionage and theft of government property. Some US politicians have called him a “traitor”.
On the other hand, beacons of freedom and civil liberties are calling him “a hero”, saying that Snowden has performed a great public service by revealing the colossal scale of the US government’s eavesdropping on Americans as well as on other people and governments around the world.
The leaks around the US spying has shaken US ties with many nations, from allies such as Germany and France to adversaries such as Russia and China.
Snowden, who is thought to be currently stranded in the transit lounge at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport, has sought asylum from 21 countries. So far none have been granted.
What’s your take on Snowden’s actions? Is it alright for the US to infringe on privacy and collect data with zero public accountability, and to indiscriminately survey anyone without evidence of any guilt?