BY ADEYEMI OSHUNRINADE
JUNE 16, 2013
It is undeniable that most civilized nations snoop on one another to gather crucial information and secrets, valuable for state security. Big Brother is part of the American family. He’s been around since J. Edgar Hoover created the modern U.S. surveillance state, with help of the National Security Agency. In fact, snooping has been around since the World War periods, secret information gathering partially helped to end Hitler’s quest for dominance. The American Cold War with former Soviet Union, brought spying to the limelight. Every American president has embraced Big Brother, So has every Congress charged to serve in the interest of the nation and its citizens.
State secrets must stay confidential, a reason why those charged with maintaining national security, swear an oath to observe utmost secrecy and receive security clearance from the administration. Modern day spying and information gathering, on private citizens gained momentum after 9/11. It is a proactive and counterterrorism strategy, done for no other purpose but in the name of national security and protection of the homeland.
National Intelligence Officer, Edward Snowden 29, revealed to South China Morning Post that U.S. intelligence agents, have been hacking computer networks around the world for years, apparently targeting fat data pipes that push immense amounts of data around the Internet. What motivated Snowden to betray the same nation he swore to protect is a mystery. The lack of clarity however, did not prevent some from labeling Snowden a traitor who was ready to give up his nation for whatever he intends to gain.
In a desperate attempt to prevent repatriation back to the U.S., Snowden claimed among 61,000 reported targets of the National Security Agency, are hundreds of computers in China, which U.S. officials have recently, criticized as the source of thousands of attacks on U.S. military and commercial networks.
This came a week after Snowden told British Newspaper The Guardian that the NSA, targets high-bandwidth data lines that connect Internet nodes located around the world, to gain access to communications of hundred of thousands of computers without hacking a single one. Snowden had earlier revealed that while working for Booze Allen Hamilton, a national security contractor, he worked on secret programs to collect records of domestic telephone calls in the United States and the Internet activity of overseas residents, to show the U.S. is secretly spying on its citizens without their knowledge.
While civil liberty and right to privacy guarantees against government’ encroachment on rights of citizens, there are circumstances where the state may overstep its boundaries. Whenever there is a compelling state interest especially, when the nation must protect its citizens, it may act in the name of national security, though the State’s action could amount to some form of violation of rights of its citizens.
To say the U.S. government is intentionally spying on every American sounds unrealistic. Assuming such is the case, it is impossible for the intelligence community to listen in on every conversation coming from millions of homes. There is no state interest in snooping on Americans who pose no danger to national security. However, there are random situations, when collecting such data is necessary to protect against home-grown terror.
Information developed overseas got passed along to the FBI, which helped find suspect Najibullah Zazi in Colorado and ultimately uncover a plot. Zazi pleaded guilty to terror-related charges in 2010. Same intelligence gathering helped fault the plot to carry out subway attacks in New York. Phone conversation Boston bomber, Termelan Tsarnaev, had with his mom, could have prevented the attacks that killed four, if properly followed on by Russian intelligence and their American counterpart.
Those who called Snowden a hero probably misjudged the situation. Such a connotation is unnecessary accolade for one willing to destroy the nation’s intelligence at a time when American citizens are getting killed here at home. A time when the nation is doing all it can to prevent homegrown terror and radicalization of American youths. A private citizen has no reason to fear the state is gathering valuable information, if there is no skeleton in his or her cupboard.
This is not to say the state must unnecessary invade on its citizens’ privacy without cause. Usually when a state takes such action, there is a compelling and critical interest in mind. The United States has no business in what a citizen does in the confine of his or her home, but the U.S. has a legal duty to act when there is reasonable cause or a case of necessity.
The Boston massacre and killing of British Soldier Lee Rigby are eye openers. Rigby got hacked to death in broad daylight, by Michael Adebowale and Michael Adebolajo. Both suspects are British citizens, radicalized in Britain. Had better information been gathered on their susceptibility to carry out such an attack, the killing of Rigby would’ve been prevented.
Tamerlan and Dzokhar Tsarnaev, would’ve had their hopes of attacks on Boston dashed, if necessary information were available. While it is true phone hacking had been in place before the attacks in Boston and Woolwich, the events of 9/11 and the reality that America is susceptible to terror on the homeland, are valid arguments for collecting sensitive information in the name of national security. All 19 of the 9/11 hijackers used phone conversation as they planned the deadliest terrorist attacks on American soil.
Snowden did not act in the interest of private citizens. In fact, many think his action is a security risk if acted upon by Congress. It is no news that states have spy agencies. U.S.-China struggle for supremacy has been on for decades. Russia and the U.S. spy on each other since the Cold War and even strongest allies Britain, U.S, France and Germany, still find ways to spy on one another though, with some trusts reserved.
Fallout over leaks by Snowden of NSA’s intelligence gathering came to the attention of the European Union’s governing body, where Vice President Viviane Reding raised concerns that the United States probably targeted some of its citizens. The accusation has led to outrage by some members of Congress, who say the administration has not been transparent enough on intelligence gathering.
The question no one asked is whether the U.S. must wait for a foreign nation to certify before it collects information on a possible threat to its homeland. Remember, phone hacking and guided intelligence led to the demise of Bin Laden. Had the U.S. revealed to Pakistan what it intended to do, search for the Al Qaeda leader would’ve remained in perpetuity. This does not mean the U.S. must break foreign laws, but, a fine line is needed on what American intelligence must show to a foreign government especially, when the foreign state is not one trusted to do the right thing.
There is no doubt Snowden made the U.S. vulnerable to intelligence shortfalls. Technically, Snowden is doomed for spilling state secrets he swore to keep as classified. His freedom in shambles for coming out publicly, to spill state secrets. Snowden’s actions would be somewhat credible had he stayed in the U.S. to challenge the government on its intelligence gathering methods, but instead, he fled the State to seek refuge in a foreign land, knowing that the Chinese would act on any information on U.S. intelligence they can lay their hands on.
The U.S. government must check how classified information contracts are awarded to private security companies. It is questionable how a person with no High School diploma or a college degree got hold of valuable U.S. intelligence. Yet, there are many college graduates with knowledge of politics, law and foreign policy unable to secure such a sensitive position. At 29, Snowden earned $200,000 a year in wages, but it remains unknown how much experience he had that qualified him to take charge of classified U.S. intelligence. The goal is not to limit Snowden’s aspirations. Nonetheless, this is not how being a capitalist state suppose to work. It is a wakeup call, but whoever hired Snowden, did a really bad job.
Dr. Adeyemi Oshunrinade [E. JD] is the author of ‘Wills Law and Contests,’ ‘Constitutional Law-First Amendment’ and ‘SAVING LOVE’ available at http://www.amazon.com/author/adeyemioshunrinade. Follow on Twitter @san0670.
- Snowden Welcome in China. (news.xinhuanet.com)
- Convicted U.S. spy: ‘Snowden is doomed’ (cnn.com)
- Snowden’s Looking a Little Dodgy (minx.cc)
- RedBlueAmerica: Is Edward Snowden a hero or traitor? (redding.com)
- Holder: Leaks damaged U.S. security (cnn.com)
- NSA leaker Edward Snowden is a hero to some, traitor to others (networkworld.com)
- Why Edward Snowden Is A Hero (newyorker.com)
- It Seems A Bit Early To Call Edward Snowden A ‘Hero’ (businessinsider.com)
- Member Of Congress: Edward Snowden’s Revelations Are “Just The Tip Of The Iceberg” (dprogram.net)
- Whistle-blower, maybe. Hero, probably not. (mhasegawa.com)