It has been roughly eight months since Glenn Greenwald et al. began reporting on Edward Snowden and the National Security Agency surveillance leaks. The leaks have been rolling in ever since. While intelligence gathering is certainly not a new or entirely unnecessary tactic, documents pointing to the magnitude and arbitrary nature of oversight have cast the NSA in an Orwellian light.
Undoubtedly, there has to be a trade-off at some point. Some secrets do, in fact, need to remain secret. So where do we draw the line between security, privacy and, moreover, our own personal freedoms? Private records, analysed and interpreted in secret courts, are in no way signs of a free and healthy democracy. And isn’t the state of democracy what this debate is really about?
Whether you believe Edward Snowden has been doing our civil liberties a favour or not, there has been a stream of ex-NSA officials, whistleblowers, and senators who have been trying to shine light on the issue for years.
Service providers, such as Ladar Levison of Lavabit, have also come forward to shed some light on the story; having decided to shut-down the website rather than hand over the reins to surveillance agencies, also clarifying that under legal restrictions, he was unable to disclose much of his interaction with the agency, stating that he “did not want to be complicit in crimes against the American people”.
We now know, through leaks such as the Verizon court order, that the NSA has been collecting phone records on Americans on a daily basis through various telecom and communications companies.
Slides have shown a timeline of Web and Tech giants who have provided, either willingly with the possibility of facing similar constraints as Levison; or perhaps unwillingly – as some of the slides suggest direct access could be reached through the Tempura program’s fiber optic cable taps. We have seen the expanse of networks reaching international agencies like the so-called ’Five Eyes’ surveillance alliance of the NSA, GCHQ, Canada’s CSEC/CSIS, as well as facilities in Australia and New Zealand.[Full story]