By Taylor Dunlop | Contributor
Traitor, coward, activist, hero, whistleblower-in just the past couple of years, Edward Snowdenhas become something of a household name. Once a contractor and 'sysadmin' for the National Security Agency (NSA), Snowden was allowed to view many different parts of the system while he was stationed at Booz Allen Hamilton in Hawaii. With that level of clearance, Snowden obtained top secret NSA documents-documents that explained and exposed the mass data collection methods the NSA used on the public. Snowden now stands as one of the United States' most wanted criminals for treason and has since sought refuge in Russia. It is time he received clemency and returns home-he's earned it.
In his iconic novel "1984," George Orwell wrote, "Big Brother is watching." Edward Snowden proved it. The documents he shared with members of the British news agency The Guardian gave evidence for numerous illegal actions taken by the NSA: they've collected phone data from tens of millions of Americans as well as 35 world leaders; they've led more than 61,000hacking operations in China; they've placed numerous international embassies "under surveillance," according to bbc.com. Certain actions of the NSA, like the mass collection of phone metadata, were declared illegalin court (ACLU v. Clapper). These kinds of actions could strongly be declared unconstitutional. Snowden, at great personal cost, provided the evidence for the case against mass surveillance and exposed the NSA for what it is.
People might argue this mass surveillance is necessary for us to prevent terrorism. Bush thought the same thing when he signed the Patriot Act in October of 2001. Under Section 215of the Patriot Act, which allows for government agents to compel businesses to turn over records and documents, agents tripled their number of bulk data requests from 2004 to 2009. Since its inception in 2001, how many terrorist cases have been cracked using the Patriot Act? 10? Five? Three? 20? No-the correct answer is none. According to washingtontimes.com,"FBI agents can't point to any major terrorism cases they've cracked thanks to the key snooping powers in the Patriot Act . . ." There have been no terrorist attacks prevented using this technology. None.
Many other people would say to this, "Well, I have nothing to hide! So I don't mind my government collecting my information. I trust them." I've no problem with these people-good for them that they live such moral and upright lives. I would, however, urge them to consider the point made above on the constitutionality (and thus legality) of mass surveillance. A strong argument against this surveillance can be made from the clauses within the Fourth Amendment, which reads:
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
I am not, by any means, attempting to perform the Supreme Court's job in stating this. But I do believe that this amendment must be considered in cases where the NSA-or any other governmental organization-attempts to collect our data. It is our property, after all.
Snowden brought all of this to our American dinner table. He called the NSA out for its illegal actions and informed the people about the existence of these practices. The man deserves to come home safely.
As Edward Snowden so poignantly said: "(I just don't want to live in a world) where everything that I say, everything that I do, everyone that I talk to, every expression of love or friendship is recorded."