Exiled whistleblower Edward Snowden continues to be a strong topic of debate. His leaks exposed a number of surveillance programs that reveal a massively Orwellian operation that has long been operating in the dark. Unseen and unbeknownst to most Americans, these revelations showed that even our worst nightmares could not imagine just how thorough and widespread the surveillance operations were.
Yet, there is still a debate as to whether Snowden performed a public service. There are still those in society that believe he is a traitor because he refused to go through the proper channels, instead leaking documents and going to Russia. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has labeled him as a traitor while Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has sided with the Obama Administration in calling for his prosecution.
White House Press Secretary Jose Earnest has criticized Snowden for not using internal protocols and processes to address concerns. It was Earnest’s position that the whistleblower should not have gone to the Internet. This is a position held by many in the political elite, as well as the NSA counterintelligence investigations chief in 2014. Richard Ledgett, deputy director of the NSA and head of the Media Leaks Task Force would later echo these sentiments as well.
It has been a consistent position of the federal government that Snowden made little or no attempt to address his concerns through official channels. This claim has allowed them to portray the former contractor as a renegade with little concern for the rule of law.
But according to new documents uncovered by Vice News through the Freedom of Information Act, Snowden did try to alert the National Security Agency to his concerns. He did try to use proper government channels and the government failed not only him, but the American people.
Then proceeded to act like it never happened after they left Snowden with no other options but to go public.
As late as April of 2013, just months before his leaks, Snowden had sought clarification regarding the “interpretation of legal authorities” in relation to the surveillance programs. Among these programs were PRISM and XKeyscore. PRISM allows for direct access to the accounts of users from several major websites, including Google and Yahoo. XKeyscore is a tool that allows access to most contents on the Internet, which Snowden has himself described as essentially granting access to anyone on the planet.
On April 5th of that year, Snowden e-mailed the NSA’s Office of General Counsel regarding a training question that implied presidential executive orders carry the same weight as statutes. A special agent assigned to the NSA counterintelligence division also had discovered additional e-mails with Snowden expressing his concerns.
This contradicts numerous claims by various figures in the government who stated Snowden hadn’t tried to resolve his concerns privately. But not only do the documents Vice News acquired show that did occur, but the revelations that they may have lied about this sparked panic up the ranks.
The information contained in the more than 800 pages of documents paints a deceptive picture of those within the government handling the Snowden revelations. From the White House press secretary to various leaders within the National Security Agency, there has been an effort to deceive the people about the handling of the entire situation.
It’s not only disturbing the things Snowden revealed in the last few years, but also the lengths that various levels of power have gone to to protect power and deceive the people.