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What Do We Want?

He’s been called a hero, a whistle-blower, a dissident, a traitor, and a patriot, but which one characterizes him the most? Or maybe that’s not the question we should be focusing on. In a TED Blog post by Helen Walters, Edward Snowden said: “You know, everybody who’s involved with this debate has been struggling over me, my personality and how to describe me. This is not the question we should be struggling with. Who I am really does not matter at all. If I’m the worst person in the world, hate me and move on. What really matters here are the issues of the government we want, the Internet we want, the relationship between people and societies. That’s what I hope the debate will move towards. If I had to describe myself, I’m not a hero, patriot, traitor. I’d say I’m an American and a citizen.”

Three months after joining the NSA (National Security Agency), Edward Snowden began collecting a bunch of top secret information the United States government has been keeping from its citizens, allies, and enemies. His purpose: “To inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them,” (Snowden with The Guardian). “I can't in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they're secretly building,” says Snowden.


In the report Everything We Learned from Edward Snowden in 2013 by Dustin Voltz, several Snowden leaks are listed:

“June 5th: Verizon provides NSA with daily information on telephone calls within the United States and between the U.S. and other countries.” (The Guardian)

“June 6th: PRISM collects foreign communications traffic from Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Pay Talk, YouTube, Skype, AOL, and Apple.” (The Washington Post)
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PRISM (Planning Tool for Resource Integration, Synchronization, and Management) is a data tool designed to collect and process foreign communications that pass through American servers.

“July 31st: XKeyscore, the NSA's self-described "widest-reaching" intelligence system, is a software tool that allows analysts, reportedly without authorization, to search through enormous databases containing emails, online chats, and the browsing histories of millions of individuals.” (The Guardian)

“December 4th: NSA is tracking five billion records a day that monitor the location of cellphones around the world.” (The Washington Post)

“December 9th: NSA and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters infiltrate virtual reality video games in an effort to catch and foil possible terrorist plots.” (The New York Times)

“December 20th: NSA paid RSA $10 billion to build and promote a flawed encryption system that left open a ‘back door’ through which the NSA could access data on computers around the world.” (Reuters)
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The RSA is a large computer security firm.
“Congress hasn't declared war on the countries - the majority of them are our allies - but without asking for public permission, NSA is running network operations against them that affect millions of innocent people. And for what? So we can have secret access to a computer in a country we're not even fighting?” says Edward Snowden. This is only part of what we have learned from Edward Snowden. There are many other secrets he has rightfully exposed to the world. “Even if you're not doing anything wrong, you are being watched and recorded,” says Snowden.
In Snowden Says His Mission is Accomplished; “I already won” by Mark Memmott, Snowden says: “Remember, I did not want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself.” “All I wanted was for the public to be able to have a say in how they are governed. That is a milestone we left a long time ago.”
After leaking NSA information, Snowden has received lots of negative reactions. Spies want him dead and countries are extremely hesitant in granting him asylum, but the former NSA contractor says in a Mark Memmott report: “I have already won. As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated.” It seems as if there is no use in trying to punish Snowden. Yes, he’s a traitor, but he has already won. Everyone knows about how the United States government has betrayed its people and no one will ever forget. “All I can say right now is the U.S. government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me. Truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped,” says Snowden.
Shortly before his leaks appeared in the Post and The Guardian, Snowden left Hawaii for Hong Kong and later fled to Moscow. There, in Russia, he has been given temporary asylum but has asked Ecuador for permanent asylum.

Asylum is when a person is persecuted by his or her own country and is protected by another foreign country.

In a report by Rory Carrol for The Guardian, Snowden says to Ecuador’s president: Rafael Correa, “I must express my deep respect for your principles and sincere thanks for your government’s action in considering my request for political asylum. There are few world leaders who would risk standing for the human rights of an individual against the most powerful government on Earth, and the bravery of Ecuador and its people is an example to the world.” Ecuador is not, however, considering Snowden’s asylum request. In Ecuador Says It Blundered Over Snowden Travel Document by Rory Carrol, Correa says he would not like to meet Snowden and never intended to facilitate his flight from Hong Kong. Ecuador believes Snowden is Russia’s problem and his asylum situation is completely their decision.

“After blowing the proverbial whistle on NSA spying on American citizens, the question has been asked: ‘Is Edward Snowden an American hero or a villainous traitor to his country?’ The answer really depends on who you ask. According to certain factions in the United States government administration, he is indeed a villain. However in the opinion of most everyday Americans and a few important players on the political field, he is a hero,” says Mai Nowlin with Guardian Liberty Voice. Snowden has not betrayed his country. If anything, he has informed the public of numerous times our government has betrayed us. He has given society a chance to determine whether or not we want to change ourselves. “I don't see myself as a hero 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,” (Edward Snowden).

There is really no way to justify what the government has done. It shows us how paranoid the government is and how badly they hunger for power. “Bathtub falls and police officers kill more Americans than terrorism, yet we've been asked to sacrifice our most sacred rights for fear of falling victim to it,” (Edward Snowden). This is not okay. This is extremely unconstitutional. Have we forgotten what America was built on? Have we forgotten the hard work of our ancestors, their blood, sweat, and tears? Maybe I’m being over-dramatic, but this is billions of peoples’ lives I am talking about. I can’t even imagine how many people this spying frenzy has affected. Is this what we are now? A country bent on perfecting ourselves even if it means hurting billions of people along the way? “America is a fundamentally good country. We have good people with good values who want to do the right thing. But the structures of power that exist are working to their own ends to extend their capability at the expense of the freedom of all publics,” (Edward Snowden). It seems so…

Snowden, AKA Verax (truth-teller), has told us the truth about our government. Now it’s up to us to use this information to create change. He has given society plenty to think about. What are we going to change? How are we going to change it? Will our changes make a difference? Something needs to change quickly. We can’t keep living underneath the betrayal of our government without doing anything about it. We need to regain our liberties, correct our mistakes, and work together. We need to be whole again.



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