Tuesday, June 11, 2013

What is to be the fate of Edward Snowden, who leaked NSA surveillance programs?

No investigation need be done this time. The whistleblower who revealed two NSA programs last week, one that monitors data over the Internet and the other that monitors phone calls (though not the actual conversations) came forward on Sunday: He is Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of Booz Allen Hamilton, a defense contractor.

His identity was revealed in both the Washington Post, which first published details of the PRISM data monitoring program, and the Guardian, which first published details of the Verizon Wireless -- and most assume, all of the Big Four wireless carrier -- phone monitoring program. Snowden's interview with the Guardian is embedded below.

Snowden is currently in Hong Kong. The question now becomes: What will happen to Snowden, now?

While Hong Kong has an extradition treaty with the U.S., that was signed prior to the handoff from Great Britain to China. Because of that, it's unclear what will happen, extradition-wise. In addition, it's obvious that Snowden could be considered a key figure, politically, to China, and they may not want to hand him over to the U.S., until they have gleaned as much information as they can -- that is, of course, if they decide to extradite him at all.

In both articles, it was quite clear that Snowden knows that he may have completely destroyed his life. Prior to the publication of his story in the Washington Post, he told them:
I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions, and that the return of this information to the public marks my end. [The U.S. intelligence community] will most certainly kill you if they think you are the single point of failure that could stop this disclosure and make them the sole owner of this information.

You can’t protect the source, but if you help me make the truth known, I will consider it a fair trade. There’s no saving me.”
He even warned the Washington Post reporter, Barton Gellman. that journalists may be at risk until they published his story.

To the Guardian, he said:
All my options are bad. Yes, 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. Any of their agents or assets.

We have got a CIA station just up the road – the consulate here in Hong Kong – and I am sure they are going to be busy for the next week. And that is a concern I will live with for the rest of my life, however long that happens to be.
Triad, FYI, is a term that refers to "the many branches of Chinese transnational organized crime organizations based in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and also in countries with significant Chinese populations."

One thing that is interesting is the short period of time in which Snowden appears to have gathered his information. Booz Allen Hamilton confirmed that Snowden has only worked for them for three months.

Another is the reason that two media giants had access to these leaks. Originally, according to the Post, Snowden, who went by the codename Verax, wanted to keep things "unilateral," as he called it. However, after the Post to offer him certain guarantees on what or when they would publish the PRISM info, Snowden contacted the Guardian.

Although Snowden said he had only revealed information that he felt would not compromise security or endanger any lives, the Washington Post decided to held the story for longer than Snowden desired and sought the views of government officials about any potential harm to national security prior to publication. The Post also decided to reproduce only four of Snowden's 41 slides.

Snowden said that he plans to apply for asylum in Iceland or some other country “with strong internet and press freedoms,” although “the strength of the reaction will determine how choosy I can be.”

Verax, Snowden's codename, means "truth teller" in Latin. According to the Washington Post, two historical British figures are known to have used the pseudonym.
Clement Walker, a 17th-century detractor of Parliament, died in the brutal confines of the Tower of London. Two centuries later, social critic Henry Dunckley adopted “Verax” as his byline over weekly columns in the Manchester Examiner. He was showered with testimonials and an honorary degree.
When asked which of the two Veraxes he expected his fate to mirror, Snowden said:
That’s up to the global public. If asylum is offered, we’ll have the first example. If not, we’ll have the second. I am prepared for both.
Snowden might want to take heart in a paragraph from Change.gov:
Barack Obama will strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government. Obama will ensure that federal agencies expedite the process for reviewing whistleblower claims and whistleblowers have full access to courts and due process.

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