The somewhat shocking revelations initially published by the Guardian UK, regarding the US NSA's (National Security Agency) mass surveillance of electronic telecommunications and Internet communications, leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden, have probably been a good wake-up call. Terms such as "PRISM" and "Boundless Informant" will arguably have taken on a whole new meaning in the IT lexicon, now.
The wake-up itself is timely, insofar as it shows us that whilst we may have been putting our efforts into assiduously lobbying/working to protect the Internet freedoms from erosion by frontal so-called "legal" attacks (SOPA, PIP, etc.) - driven apparently by political and commercial lobbies - there has been an infinitely greater, total
and hugely successful attack on Internet freedoms and other telecommunications freedoms. The attack is now a fait accompi
, and has been progressively expanding for years (since 2006, at least) and has come from within
, driven by the US government, under the catch-all justification of TWAT ("The War Against Terror"), or something.
This arguably rather makes a joke of our imagining that our/any efforts (above) to protect Internet freedoms from attack/restraint would be of any use. You can't protect something that has cynically already
been destroyed without your realising it.
I had assumed that Edward Snowden's motivation for blowing the whistle might have been something to do with personal privacy and security, and the erosion of the the Fourth Amendment (Amendment IV) to the United States Constitution, represented by the invasive surveillance. Per Wikipedia
, this the part of the Bill of Rights which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures, along with requiring any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause.
However, according to this Mashable article, it would seem that Edward Snowden's motivation was a little more specific than that:
(Copied below sans
embedded hyperlinks/images, and with my emphasis.)
Edward Snowden's Motivation: Internet Freedom
By Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai2013-06-10 21:47:02 UTC
"Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather."
Those are the words that open the Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace, a seminal paper by John Perry Barlow. In the paper, the former Grateful Dead lyricist and founder of the online rights advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation argued governments should never meddle with cyberspace, a separate place where the real-world rules had no reason to exist.
SEE ALSO: PRISM: Does the NSA Really Get Direct Access to Your Data?
Barlow's declaration — the product of a time when Internet thinkers were perhaps a bit naive — might seem outdated now. Much has changed since then. Governments have indeed claimed sovereignty over the Internet, and nobody reasonably expects the Internet to be left alone anymore.
However, the Utopian ideals that shaped that declaration influenced an entire generation of kids who grew up messing around with a Windows 95 computer and a noisy 56k connection. Those ideals still resonate today.
And they're partly what pushed Edward Snowden to become a whistleblower by leaking a series of top-secret documents to The Guardian and The Washington Post. His leaks have revealed a secret court order that allows the NSA to collect the metadata of Americans' phone calls for months at a time; a secret system codenamed PRISM that intercepts Internet communications; a presidential directive asking for a list of targets for cyberattacks; and "Boundless Informant," a NSA tool to data-mine the world.
One of Snowden's reasons to leak those documents, according to his interview with The Guardian, was a belief that Internet privacy and freedom foster progress.
"I don't see myself as a hero," he said, "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."Snowden considers the Internet "the most important invention in all of human history." He thinks the NSA and the U.S. government are curtailing Internet freedom in the name of national security and the fight against terrorism. His views have deep roots: As a teenager, he spent hours and hours on the Internet, "speaking to people with all sorts of views that I would never have encountered on my own."
We can agree or disagree with Snowden's actions and argue for hours and days about whether he is a hero, the most important whistleblower in America's history or a villain. He did what he did at least partly because he wanted the Internet to remain free, and he thought the people of the Internet deserved to know more about the NSA surveillance programs.
Image via The Guardian via Getty Images
Topics: bradley manning, edward snowden, Internet freedom, U.S., US & World, WikiLeaks, World
The emboldened bits speak for me.
Snowden is one American who apparently has a massive
amount of spine.