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Source of NSA Prism Leaks Revealed

Edward Snowden

The Guardian / AFP

Carly Andrews - published on 06/10/13

29 year old Ed Snowden is the whistleblower of top secret US surveillance programme

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The Guardian UK newspaper has revealed the identity (with his permission) of the leaks about the top secret US surveillance programme. The whistleblower is 29 year old Edward Snowden, a former technical assistant for the CIA who for the past four years has been working at the National Security Agency (NSA) for various defence contractors including Booz Allen Hamilton and Dell.

Last week the Guardian uncovered documents revealing the top secret program Prism which enables authorised personnel to gather information including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats, directly from internet giants such as Google, Facebook, Skype, Apple, Microsoft etc.

One of the documents was made up of a 41 slide PowerPoint presentation “classified as top secret" said the Guardian, "with no distribution to foreign allies – which was apparently used to train intelligence operatives on the capabilities of the program. The document claims 'collection directly from the servers' of major US service providers.”

PRISM was implemented under the government of Bush, supposedly after the 911 attacks, in a bid to control terrorism. It has been developed and reinforced under Obama.

Although the document claimed to have run with the assistance of said companies, these Internet giants claimed they knew nothing about Prism and that they have never allowed any "back-door access" to the government. 

On the Record

Ed Snowdon was the man to give up the NSA document. He decided not to remain under the protection of anonimity but revealed himself to the public saying he had “done nothing wrong.”

However he has consciously avoided heavy media coverage, stating "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."

Snowden, after having decided to expose NSA,  told his work that he had to take two weeks out for his epilepsy, after which he made a hasty goodbye to his girlfriend and got on a flight to Hong Kong. There he met with Guardian reporter Ewan MacAskill in an interview that lasted for days, revealing top secret documents that he copied from NSA.

He chose to flee to Hong Kong because "they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent" he said.  Although Regina Ip, Hong Kong's former security secretary, has since called for Snowden to be deported. "Hong Kong is not a legal vacuum as Mr. Snowden might have thought," she states.

Threat to Democracy

In a video released by the Guardian Snowden explained that “analysts at any time can target anyone, any selector, anywhere. Where those communications will be picked up depending on the range of the sensor networks and the authorities that that analyst is empowered with”. He continues “I, sitting at my desk certainly had the authority to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the President if I had a personal email.”

He then stressed that it was not a decision that should be left only to an elite to determine, but that  the public had the right to decide whether such  programs and policies are right or wrong, "and i am willing to go on the record to defend the authenticity of them" he said, "this is the truth, this is what is happening, and you need to decide if we ought to be doing this.”

Condemned by US Intelligence

Since Snowden revealed his identity as the whistleblower yesterday, he has received utter condemnation by US politians and Intelligence. Shawn Turner, a spokesman for US National Intelligence stated "Any person who has a security clearance knows that he or she has an obligation to protect classified information and abide by the law."

In response to such condemnation Snowden has replied: "We have seen enough criminality on the part of government. It is hypocritical to make this allegation against me. They have narrowed the public sphere of influence."

He also explains: "I carefully evaluated every single document I disclosed to ensure that each was legitimately in the public interest." He continues "There are all sorts of documents that would have made a big impact that I didn't turn over, because harming people isn't my goal. Transparency is."

President Barack Obama has defended the surveillance programmes, “there are some trade-offs involved” he said, and the "modest encroachments on privacy that are involved" were "worth us doing.” In an attempt at justifying the Big Brother surveillence program he says "You can't have 100% security and also then have 100% privacy and zero inconvenience."

To this statement, Snowden has replied "My immediate reaction was he was having difficulty in defending it himself. He was trying to defend the unjustifiable and he knew it."

So what is the future now for whistleblower Ed Snowdon? 

He is seen by many as a couragious hero; a defender of democracy and freedom. He certainly risked everything to let the world know what was going on. His hopes are that he can seek asylum in Iceland, which he believes share his values with regards to internet freedom. However since he has made himself an enemy of one of the most powerful organisations in the world, his future is by no means a certain one, which Ed is well aware of.

"I could be rendered by the CIA. I could have people come after me. Or any of the third-party partners. They work closely with a number of other nations. Or they could pay off the Triads." He explains. "The only thing I fear is the harmful effects on my family, who I won't be able to help any more. That's what keeps me up at night," He finishes emotionally.

However there are no regrets for Snowden, as he faces the almost certainty that he will never live on home soil again. "I feel satisfied that this was all worth it. I have no regrets" he concludes.

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