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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Snowden’s manifesto is met with cold reception

The Russian winter has arrived and many argue that Edward Snowden is attempting to thaw his icy relationship with the U.S.

Most recently, Snowden had his open letter, “A Manifesto for Truth,” published in Der Spiegel, a German news magazine.

“While the NSA and GCHQ (a British intelligence agency) appear to be the worst offenders … we cannot forget that mass surveillance is a global problem and needs a global solution,” Snowden wrote.

“Those who speak the truth are not committing a crime.”

Several analysts believe that the purpose of Snowden’s letter is to gain clemency as international opinion turns against American spying.

On the contrary, others, like Christian Science Monitor writer Mark Clayton, hold that, “Washington is trying to spin the letters to its advantage — suggesting that Snowden is seeking clemency as a way of making it appear as if he’s tacitly admitting guilt.”

Snowden’s argument that mass surveillance programs operate at an enormous scale is supported by the extent of the U.S. spying network.

“There are over 50 intelligence agencies, both private sector and public, that comprise the American spying network,” William Binney, an NSA whistle-blower who left the agency in 2002, told The Guilfordian in an email interview.

Proponents of U.S. intelligence-gathering concur that the spy network is bloated, though for different reasons.

“The privatization of government services allowed individuals, like Snowden, to access classified information,” said Robert Duncan, assistant professor of political science. “Private sector companies care more about their bottom line than the integrity and security of the U.S.”

Before its existence was leaked to the public by Snowden, the NSA’s PRISM program collected data communicated over the Internet via a two-pronged approach: coercing corporations like Google to sell customer information and subpoenaing private information from these corporations.

Former director of the Central Intelligence Agency Robert Gates believes that PRISM’s supervisor, the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Courts, has kept spying within limits, both domestically and abroad.

“China and other countries conduct economic espionage,” Gates told The Guilfordian. “America doesn’t do that. Our espionage must be strategic in purpose, and the FISA courts ensure that it is.”

However, multiple reports show that PRISM strategy may have infringed on citizens’ rights to privacy.

“The NSA paid millions to cover the costs of major Internet companies involved in PRISM after a court ruled that some of the agency’s activities were unconstitutional, according to top-secret material passed to The Guardian,” Ewan MacAskill wrote in an article for The Guardian.

Furthermore, on Nov. 7, The New York Times reported that the CIA pays AT&T over $10 million a year to assist the CIA in exploiting the company’s vast database of phone records.

Companies such as Google, Yahoo, Facebook and Verizon have admitted that they have received compensation from U.S. intelligence agencies to release user information.

“The ‘Accept Terms of Service’ prompt that appears on these sites isn’t some obligatory pop-up,” said Mike Hyatt ‘05, systems analyst for Lincoln Financial Group. “Those prompts are you signing your information over to them as property.”

Many in the information technology field find it laughable that people are upset about the government corralling information that users willingly put on the Internet.

“Anytime you hook up to the Internet, you can take the word ‘personal’ out of personal computer,” IT&S network engineer Brian McCaffrey said in an email interview.

The evolution of the Edward Snowden leaks illustrate that the U.S. government is paying for, as well as subpoenaing, user information from corporations.

“It is capitalism at its finest,” said Hyatt. “Unfortunately, capitalism at its finest often brings out humanity at its worst.”

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