The Snowden Case

  • EDWARD SNOWDEN : Portrait of a whistleblower

Born on June the 21st in 1983, he grew up in North Carolina.

He is a computer engineer who worked for intelligence services. He left the CIA in 2009 to work for private contractors, including Dell and Booz Allen. He was also assigned to NSA offices in Japan and more recently Hawaii.

He leaked classified informations about NSA surveillance activites. The exact size of Snowden’s disclosure is unknown but British officials estimated at least 58,000 intellience files.

He was in Hong Kong when he decided to disclose those informations and remained there during the early stages of the fallout. There he met two journalists : Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras.

  • Where is he hidden ?

In late August, the whistleblower has arrived in Moscow after Hong Kong authorities allowed him to leave despite a US request for his arrest. The russian’s newspaper reported that Snowden was living at the Russian consulate. The country allows him to stay there for 3 years. While Snowden remains in Russia, the US government is working on extradition.

  • Motivations

The aim of Edward Snowden isn’t really known. According to him he couldn’t keep quiet about the way the principle of national security was applied. It was morally unacceptable. His main argument to justify his good intentions, is that he leaves his country, his family and a wage of 200 000 dollars per year to alert each citizens in the world. He told The Guardian he had enjoyed a “very comfortable life” but that he stated : “I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things… I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under”. Howerver he is seen as a traitor and accused of acting with premeditation.

Revelations : object
and way of diffusion

  • Revelation : way of diffusion

First of all Snowden tried to contact Glenn Greenwald, journalist in the USA for The Guardian and lawyer, anonymously as “Cincinnatus” in December 2012 asking him to use encryption to protect their conversation. Due to the strange aspect of the message Greenwald doesn't paid more attention to it.

Therefore Snowden contacted Laura Poitras, a documentary film maker. She started to verify how much this mysterious source was reliable. So she met Greenwald which whom she created the Freedom of the Press foundation, a NGO in association with Daniel Ellsberg (Pentagon Papers), in 2012.

Snowden made an appointment with them in Hong-Kong on May 2013. The first article about Snowden’s revelation was published on June the 5th in 2013 by Glenn Greenwald. Four days later he asked The Guardian and The Washington Post to reveal his identity.

We still don't know how many sensitive documents he leaked because the NSA refused to communicate about it. The article spread rapidly in different countries and different newspapers. It was part of Snowden’s strategy to prevent any attempt to suppress the leak.

The choice of Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald wasn't neutral. Glenn Greenwald has been awarded for his work about the arrest of Bradley Manning, the source of the leak in Wikileaks. Laura Poitras shot a documentary about whistleblowers with Julian Assange et Jacob Appelbaum, members of Wikileaks.

  • Object of the Revelations

The disclosure were especially about the PRISM, a spying program on the internet which allows the FBI and the NSA to monitor net surfers. Snowden also revealed that many telephone operators and Internet providers were given information about their customers to the NSA everyday. They also touched one of the British intelligence services, the Governement Communication Headquarters (GCHQ) accused of spying the members of G20 during meetings in London in 2009. The Guardian and The Washington Post also revealed that the USA often creep into Chinese network.

The Guardian is an English newspaper with the particularity to have an US edition. It may explain why Snowden chose this newspaper to make his first revelation. As an English based newspaper The Guardian doesn’t have to obey the American law about counter terrorism as the USA Patriot act voted the 26th of October 2001.

Consenquences on public opinion press, and politics

  • Pulitzer prize

In 2014, 10 months after the NSA revelations, The Guardian and The Washington Post won the Pulitzer prize for « public service ».

The Pulitzer committee awarded the 2 newspapers for their : « revelation of widespread secret surveillance by the National Security Agency, helping throught aggressive reporting to spark a debate about the relationship between the government and the public over issues of security and privacy. »

  • The Intercept

Few months after the affair, Gleen Grenwald resigned from his job at The Guardian because he wanted to create a new media. He created The Intercept with Laura Poitras who also revealed the affair, the journalist Jeremy Scahill and Pierre Omidyar the rich CEO of Ebay.

The Intercept is an online media created in February 2014. In the short term, the point of The Intercept is to publish the unrevealed documents given by Snowden. According to John Cook « The primary function of The Intercept is to insist upon and defend our press freedoms from those who wish to infringe them ». So in the long term, the aim of the website is to reveal affairs. The Intercept provides an anonymous function for dropping files, inspired by the system of WikiLeaks. Therefore, the identity of the sources is totally safe.

  • Internet

Edward Snowden is very reluctant about the privacy on the internet. According to him, even random citizen should not use Dropbox or Facebook.

After the Snowden case, the use of the internet by journalists has evolved. Now, a journalist who works on a rough case knows that he might be tapped. This is why journalists tries to avoid email for communicating highly classified information.

  • Politics

Snowden revelations had threaten the US security policy. Some people asked for more transparency. Barack Obama’s point on it is clear: « You can’t have 100 percent security and also have 100 percent privacy ». The USA Patriot Act, which is a consequence of the 11 September, is very contested since Snowden’s revelations. Obama has announced that the commission which allow the surveillance of someone, will welcome a protector of the American citizen. It is the only concrete measure due to the Snowden Affair.

Snowden : a betrayer or a hero ?

The public opinion is divided about the Snowden Affair.

According to a survey published in 2013, 51% of the American citizen believe that Snowden is a kind of hero. It is a very skinny majority. Depending on the pools, the result is different.

According to the pro Snowden, he revealed the NSA acts in order to raise public awareness. But the anti Snowden believe that it is an useless threat for the US security policy.

The complete interview of Edward Snowden revealing is identity to The Guardian


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