The top echelons of the Washington establishment have been stunned by the release of documents which show that the U.S. government has been involved in a program of massive spying not only on foreign governments and their citizens, but on its own citizens as well.
Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old technical worker employed by Booz Allen Hamilton, a private contractor for the National Security Administration, released the documents, initially to the Guardian newspaper (Britain) and the Washington Post, and later to the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong.
The documents disclose:
1) That the NSA illegally conducted surveillance on the phone calls of millions of people residing in the U.S and continues to do so. It recorded every single phone call made with Verizon during a three-month period, although the NSA claimed not to have actually listened in on the content (yet).
2) That the NSA illegally forced online companies like Google, Yahoo, Facebook and many others to turn over billions of emails and other online communications of people in the U.S.
3) That the NSA hacked into the emails of millions of civilians and government entities in China, including millions in Hong Kong. Just as President Barack Obama was accusing China of “cyberwarfare” against the U.S., Snowden revealed that there had been 61,000 hacks by the NSA on China.
4) That in 2009, at the meeting of the G20 (the largest economies of the world), the Government Communications Headquarters, the British equivalent of the NSA, spied on high-level government ministers of other countries, including Turkey and South Africa, by setting up fake Internet cafes and eavesdropping on the delegates to obtain passwords, etc. (Guardian, June 16)
Just as these bombshells burst, other reports surfaced revealing that the NSA is building a top-secret, gigantic, digital storage facility in Bluffdale, Utah.The mammoth center, which costs some $1.7 billion, will allow the agency to store more information and keep it much longer. James Bamford, the author of several books on the NSA, theorizes the facility will be able to hold a so-called yottabyte of information, equal to 500 quintillion (500,000,000,000,000,000,000) pages of text.
Bamford says he believes the Utah center will store those phone records NSA gathered from Verizon Communications. (Talking Points Memo, June 13) It is plain that the NSA intends to vacuum in practically every communication in the world and then use supercomputers to inspect the information.
Snowden reveals ‘massive surveillance machine’
Shortly after the first two disclosures, Snowden not only admitted he had leaked the documents, he explained his reasons: “[I wanted] to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them,” he said. (Guardian, June 10)
Speaking from Hong Kong, Snowden said, “I’m willing to sacrifice all of that because I can’t in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, Internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.”
The Washington establishment answered with nearly unanimous personal attacks on Snowden, as House Majority Speaker John Boehner called him a “traitor” and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein called the leaks “an act of treason.”
The mainstream media were in lockstep with the government. Tom Brokaw called him “narcissistic” and sneered that he was a “high-school dropout.” (mediaite.com, June 13) Even such “liberal” strongholds as the New Yorker magazine attacked him.
The NSA operations, as well as those of the CIA and FBI, are supposedly done to counteract “terrorism.” Since 2001, the U.S has spent an estimated one trillion dollars on combatting terrorism. But just what is the danger to the people of the U.S. from terrorism compared to some other dangers?
According to statistics drawn from official government sources, a person in the U.S is 35,079 times more likely to die from heart disease than from a terrorist attack and 33,842 times more likely to die from cancer, yet health care is being cut back.
You are 271 times more likely to die from a workplace accident than from terrorism, but workers’ rights are under attack.
You are 87 times more likely to drown, and six times more likely to die from hot weather than from a terrorist attack, but efforts to prevent global warming are poorly financed, and actually opposed by some. You are nine times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist. (Washingtonblog.com, April 28)