As we dig deeper into the NSA scandal, we have not only become aware that our government is spying on us, but we have learned the level of sophistication and secrecy the people involved went through in order to keep this under wraps. Although many of us aren’t surprised that our government is spying on us through our phones, Google and Facebook, it is disgusting to know the great lengths our ‘transparent’ government is going to in order to downplay the whole scandal.
This debacle proves that Big Brother is really out there and our Government has completely lost an understanding of the fundamental qualities this country was built on. Not only is the government spying on its people, but its form of damage control is insulting to the American citizens’ intelligence.
The whistleblower, Edward Snowden, had worked for Booz Allen, one of the companies who has a defense contract with the United States. Although he had a comfortable life in Hawaii, making a consistent 6-figure salary, he saw an injustice and decided to speak out against it. He understood that his life would never be the same and that his actions would have irreversible effects on his social and family life.
Although this scandal has just surfaced, there are many moving parts that we must keep an eye on. Here is a breakdown of the scandal as it has progressed over time:
Edward Snowden the 29-year-old whistleblower talks about his immense power under the NSA and how easy it is for the government to actually spy on you.
According to Business Insider, Edward Snowden was the whistleblower who brought this situation to light. He felt that the people needed to know what was going on and that what the government was doing to its citizens was not fair. Edward was well aware of the power he had, saying that he had access to full NSA rosters, undercover assets all over the world and the entire intelligence community.
He said that at any moment, he could wiretap anyone: from you, to the president. As if that isn’t scary enough, he also had the ability to shut down the whole surveillance system with one push of the button. Below you will find a video giving insight as to why Edward decided to take a stand, as well as an explanation of some of the power he had while working:
Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper lies to Congress.
One of the most repulsive facts of this scandal is that even our Congress has been kept in the dark about the NSA situation. The Director of National Intelligence lied to Congress when asked if the NSA collects data on hundreds of millions Americans. You don’t have to believe us, as there is a video of James Clapper lying to congress.
He tries to say that the NSA does not wittingly collect data on U.S. citizens, although Verizon has been sending call data to them for over 7 years. Below you will find the video of James Clapper before Congress:
While courts wrestle with the issue of warrants, the NSA takes full advantage of this to gain access to private information without warrants.
A pressing issue in the NSA scandal is whether or not the NSA needs warrants to wiretap or to gain access to the private information of U.S. citizens. This issue is currently being fought out in the U.S. courts; however, this is not stopping the NSA from gaining access to the information they want. While the issue is stymied in court, the NSA is using a back door approach to gain access to your information.
It doesn’t seem that they care whether or not they are violating your rights, as they have been keeping tabs on you and your personal information for years. If members of the NSA are willing to lie to Congress, why wouldn’t they lie to you?
Edward Snowden says NSA is not only using your phones to track you and gain private information, but actually using your favorite websites as well.
The NSA PRISM system is an intricate system that not only mines data directly through your phone records but uses the servers of some of your most visited sights to gain access to your information.
Being that the NSA is a government agency they are using their power to tap into the servers of some of our most used websites to track our habits, conversations, and other information they deem useful. The PRISM system gives officials easy access to data held by the world’s top internet companies such as Google , Microsoft, Facebook, Youtube, Skype, AOL, and even Apple.
James Clapper is more concerned with Edward Snowden violating the organizational code rather than the NSA violating democracy.
Edward Snowden fled to Hong Kong because he knew that his actions would cause an uproar in the United States and that he would be a wanted man by the government. James Clapper couldn’t help but stress the fact that Edward’s actions pose a threat to national security. But with putting too much stress on national security, someone forgot to oversee the NSA’s actions and the fact that they are a threat to our democracy.
Snowden did present this issue to higher ranking officials who blatantly ignored him. Pushed in a corner and not really sure what to do, Edward packed his stuff and moved to Hong Kong where he decided to bring the whole scandal to light.
The U.K. is using our services to bypass its own laws and to violate the rights of its citizens.
The U.K. has a strict rule that prohibits British officials from seeking private information about its citizens and from gaining access to this information without the proper legal authority. However, there are ways to potentially get around this, in particular because Prism is a U.S. surveillance system. British officials claim that although Prism is a U.S. system, the authorities are required to seek legal rights to gain access to a U.K. citizen’s emails or phone records.
Although this sounds great, it is easy for officials to circumvent this issue, as Snowden claims that British officials have illegally used Prism surveillance on over 200 occasions.
Booz Allen has become one of the profitable firms in America.
Booz Allen Hamilton is a technology consulting firm. They specialize in technology consulting to the United States in matters of surveillance, intelligence and defense. This is the company that Edward Snowden worked for and where he slowly rose through the ranks to gain access to the information he leaked.
According to financial reporting, Booz Allen has become one of the most profitable companies in America solely from one major paymaster: the United States government. Based on the New York Times findings, the company secured $1.3 billion in returns for its intelligence work, which was 23% of its total revenue.
The company recently signed a 5-year, $5.6 billion contract with the department of defense. Last tax season, Booz reported $5.76 billion in revenues and was ranked No. 436 on the Forbes 500 list. Although these numbers are shocking, it may not be a surprise to you that 98% of its revenue came from the U.S. government.
The Government makes a habit of hiring Booz Allan Hamilton employees and visa versa.
The relationship between Booz Allen and the United Stated government doesn’t stop at simple defense contracts. It turns out that they trade employees as well. Over the year, there have been countless workers traded back and forth between these companies. Both the Obama administration and the Bush administration had made a habit of hiring people from Booz to be part of their administrations.
It is hard to say how all these employees who have access to such private information can be just let go by the government to these private defense organizations. James Clapper, the current chief intelligence official for the Obama administration, was once a Booz employee. However this isn’t a new practice, as the man who held the same position under the Bush administration currently holds a position at Booz.
Google and Facebook did allow the NSA access to data, as well as helped set up ‘spying rooms,’ despite contradicting reports from their CEOs.
Larry Page and Mark Zuckerberg have both denied giving the NSA access to their data, but recent reports may prove otherwise. It has surfaced that both Google and Facebook were in discussion of setting up specific secret ways of having government officials access their data through classified information reading rooms.
Under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, companies are expected to hand over any information requested lawfully. However under this act, these companies are not obligated to make access to this information easier for the government or any surveillance agency. Although other companies in Silicon Valley have been part of the PRISM program, many have not gone as far as Google and Facebook to create ‘online spying rooms.’
Obama tries to downplay the NSA scandal.
Shortly after the breakout of the scandal, the U.S. government was in a hurry to get a statement out to reassure the American citizens that the situation is all under control.
He tried to calm us down; however, in his press conference, he just told us what we already knew. He mentioned that the government does everything it can to track down potential terrorist threats. However he did forget to mention the ease in which our data can be accessed and how officials in the scandal did not take a proper, lawful approach to gaining access to our private information. Below you will find a video of the Obama press conference: