Dec 26, 2013

NSA Contractor Edward Snowden Says: "Mission Accomplished"

U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden told the media his mission is complete after spending the last year leaking secret NSA documents. 

According to 
The Washington Post, Snowden said he revealed top NSA secrets so that the American people can have a say in how they're governed. But at this point, he feels like he came, he saw and he conquered. 

“For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished,” said Snowden. “I already won. As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated. Because, remember, I didn’t want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself.

“All I wanted was for the public to be able to have a say in how they are governed. That is a milestone we left a long time ago. Right now, all we are looking at are stretch goals.”

Snowden also discussed how he came to the decision to call the NSA out on its behavior, saying that he felt the need to say something despite the consequences and reaction of the NSA and American citizens. 

“You recognize that you’re going in blind, that there’s no model,” said Snowden. “But when you weigh that against the alternative, which is not to act, you realize that some analysis is better than no analysis, because even if your analysis proves to be wrong, the marketplace of ideas will bear that out. If you look at it from an engineering perspective, an iterative perspective, it’s clear that you have to try something rather than do nothing.”

Additionally, Snowden addressed allegations about his breaking an oath of secrecy. This oath, called Standard Form 312, is the classified-information nondisclosure agreement. But Snowden said his loyalty lies with the Constitution and the American people, and that top officials at the NSA are the ones who failed to keep their pledge. 

“The oath of allegiance is not an oath of secrecy,” said Snowden. “That is an oath to the Constitution. That is the oath that I kept that Keith Alexander and James Clapper did not.

“I am not trying to bring down the NSA, I am working to improve the NSA. I am still working for the NSA right now. They are the only ones who don’t realize it.”

Snowden also made one thing very clear: he hasn't been working with the Russian government while being granted asylum there. 

“There is no evidence at all for the claim that I have loyalties to Russia or China or any country other than the United States,” said Snowden. "I have no relationship with the Russian government. I have not entered into any agreements with them.”

“If I defected at all. I defected from the government to the public.”

Snowden blew the cover on the NSA's surveillance programs earlier this year, which consisted of bulk data collection from sources like phone records, where the government took on a "collect now, filter later" approach. The agency has said that the bulk data collection was meant to 
identify terrorist threats, but it's been discovered that the data of Americans has been collected without any clear evidence of terrorist links. 

In August, reports said that the NSA admitted to touching 1.6 percent of total globe Web traffic. Its technique was to filter data after harvesting it, which led to over-collection on a major scale. It was later revealed that Snowden conned between 20 to 25 NSA employees to give him their login credentials and passwords while working at the NSA regional operations center for a month in Hawaii last spring. Snowden reportedly told the NSA employees that he needed their passwords in order to do his job, and after downloading secret NSA documents, he leaked the information to the media. 
Many top tech leaders, like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, have spoken out against the NSA's programs along with civil-liberties advocates, U.S. citizens and even other countries that had the NSA peeping in their window.

Earlier this month, it was revealed that the NSA and its UK sister agency GCHQ sent agents into the virtual of the Xbox Live network, World of Warcraft, and Second Life to find acts of terrorism.
A presidential review panel made 46 recommendations regarding greater restraint on the NSA's surveillance programs last week, which will have to be accepted by President Barack Obama and U.S. Congress before being put into practice.

The NSA is debating whether to 
grant Snowden amnesty if he promises to keep his mouth shut. It is believed that Snowden had access to about 1.7 million files, and only about 1 percent of those files have been published by the media. Recognizing that a lot more could roll down the pipeline, the NSA is likely trying to prevent further catastrophe.

One of the 
major recommendations involves the elimination of bulk collection of phone call records (known as "metadata"). The NSA said it collected metadata in bulk and filtered through it afterward in an attempt to make connections when searching for terrorist threats.
However, the panel said that this method of data collection hasn't proved to be more effective or beneficial than more targeted forms. It further stated that the program has made "modest" contributions at best, and that there's no proof the outcome would have been any different without the metadata bulk collection.

"The question is not whether granting the government (this) authority makes us incrementally safer, but whether the additional safety is worth the sacrifice in terms of individual privacy, personal liberty and public trust," said the panel.


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