A Research Paper On Edward Snowden’s Case


If anyone feels like someone is watching him/her or feels unsecured on social media , don't say they are paranoid because they are right! If anyone feels like his/her information is being watched at any time without any legal permission. Well, be certain about that. Social media plays a great role in our lives. We post everything on social media; we post our marital status, likes, dislikes, opinions, etc. We can say that we post our finest details on social media. The social media web is always archiving all of these details that we post on social media. Not only that, but it also archives all of our conversations. Therefore, the way you use social media can negatively affect your life and your friend’s life. Privacy issues on social media has never been more important, it grows rapidly due to technology. One of the problems that can happen to you because of the social media is hacking. Hackers use social media to steal your identity and information then blackmail you or they use social media to spread viruses. They are criminals and no one will get shocked if a criminal blackmailed or harmed him/her. However, not all social media threats come from criminals. In this case, the government is the one who steals your information. The government who is supposed to protect you from those criminals is the one who steals your information, your family’s and friend’s information.

On June 2013, news organizations broke stories about federal government surveillance on American and foreign citizen’s phone calls and electronic communications in the U.S.A. Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency employee has leaked highly classified documents revealing those scandals. During Snowden’s years of working with the NSA, he had noticed how far the NSA has reached in everyday surveillance. Snowden began copying highly classified NSA documents that include illegal and disturbing facts from his point of view. He then took permission from his supervisor to leave for medical reasons. On May 2013, Snowden flew to Hong Kong where he met Laura Poitras and the Guardian journalists. On June 5, the Guardian released the documents. 'I don't want to live in a world where everything that I say, everything I do, everyone I talk to, every expression of creativity or love or friendship is recorded, and that's not something I'm willing to support, it's not something I'm willing to build and it's not something I'm willing to live under.' said Edward Snowden. The government say that they have to do so for national security issues. Will a conversation between two innocent friends or relatives harm the national security?

Legal accusations, Professional & Ethical manner of the case

On June 14th 2013, Edward Snowden was accused by the United States federal prosecution of 3 crimes. The first case was two criminal complaints with the violation of the 1917 act of espionage. The second case was government property theft. The accused was facing charges of violating unauthorized communication of classified information and sharing that information with the public. Edward Snowden’s actions lead to the primary charges of a 10 years prison sentence for each of the two cases. However, the government was certain that more charges would be added once the prosecution was in motion. This increased the probability of Edward Snowden facing a life sentence. On May 20th 2013, the National Surveillance Agency (NSA) was facing the heat of surpassing federal privacy laws several times. According to Edward Snowden’s documents and to the NSA’s own files, incriminating evidence was established such as, spying on communication lines, hacking the infrastructure of internet companies and dealing with telephone line agencies to accumulate data. Furthermore, in 2011 the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court reprimanded the NSA for persistently giving ambiguous and false information about the methods of surveillance, stated by, the chief judge of court. Moreover, the federal district judge ruled against the NSA asserting that the NSA program infringes laws of the fourth amendment of the American constitution as well as stating that the program fails to provide evidence to stop any looming acts of terror. On one hand, Edward Snowden could have reported the NSA program of data gathering to superiors that could have taken a more decent action than blowing the whistle on the entire agency. Moreover, fleeing from America to other countries made him look guilty. As well as, not returning to America for prosecution after the documents were released. Even president Obama stated that Edward could have been protected by signing an executive order instead of simulating acts of treason (2014). However, the executive order can be granted for intelligence community only while Edward Snowden was a contractor. On the other hand, Edward had reported the actions of the NSA to supervisors who overlooked the complaint and clearly stated that they did not see information harnessing as a criminal act or an abuse of power. The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight board (PLCOB) in 2014,reported that, the program of the NSA should be stopped as it provides no outcome to security objectives and raises serious concerns about breaching the first amendment that protects the rights of speech, privacy, association and civil liberty. Additionally stating that, the NSA program is based on unsustainable policies and confirms that the NSA knows day to day life information about innocent citizens without their knowledge or authorization where those actions made sensitive documents accessible for abuse such as economic espionage, diplomatic manipulation, social influence and abuse of power instead of providing security and safety.

Details of the case

Sunday, June 9th 2013: The Guardian, the famed British newspaper revealed the source of the biggest US intelligence leak in history. The source was Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old employee of defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, hired by the National Security Agency (NSA). The week prior, the Guardian released the first few details of the NSA leaks. Starting on June 5th, The Guardian revealed a document indicating that the US government made Verizon turn over millions of phone records. On June 6th, they published a story about the NSA’s secret program, PRISM. This program supposedly allowed direct access to data from companies such as Apple, Google, Facebook and more. These high -profile companies denied that the NSA set up back doors to their systems. The next day, The Guardian revealed in addendum to the PRISM story that the Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ), the UK equivalent to the NSA, had access to the PRISM program and thus access to data from these tech giants as well. 

Edward Joseph Snowden was born June 21st, 1983 in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. He never completed high school but received his GED. He joined the Army at age 20 and was discharged after breaking both of his legs. His first job was as a security guard at an NSA facility located at the University of Maryland; he then was hired by Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) working in IT security. At age 24, he was stationed in Geneva, Switzerland working with the CIA for three years until taking a job as a private contractor working for Dell, and Booz Allen Hamilton, an American management- consulting firm that specializes in technology and security. Snowden was in Hawaii, working at the NSA’s Kunia Regional SIGINT (Signals Intelligence) Operations center. This is where Snowden stole the documents, before he took off to Hong Kong in late May 2013. Snowden claimed that his time with the CIA “really disillusioned me about how my government functions and what its impact is in the world”. He is afraid that the NSA “is intent on making every conversation and every form of behavior in the world known to them'. Not seeking personal attention, Snowden exclaims “I really want the focus to be on these documents and the debate which I hope this will trigger among citizens around the globe about what kind of world we want to live in. Adding, “My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them”.

Snowden managed to pull of this theft with some deception of fellow employees. According to an internal memo released by the NSA on February 10th 2014 (in 18 June 2013, the NSA civilian admitted to FBI Special Agents that he allowed Mr. Snowden to use his (the NSA civilian’s) Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) certificate to gain access to classified information on NSANet; access that he knew had been denied to Mr. Snowden. Further, at Mr. Snowden’s request, the civilian entered his PKI password at Mr. Snowden’s computer terminal. Unbeknownst to the civilian, Mr. Snowden was able to capture the password, allowing him even greater access to classified information. The civilian was not aware that Mr. Snowden intended to unlawfully disclose classified information. However, by sharing his PKI certificate, he failed to comply with security obligations.

How Snowden managed to download numerous files quickly became an important question to investigators that determined that he used web crawler software to catalog and organize all the information. The New York Times reports “A web crawler, also called a spider, automatically moves from website to website, following links embedded in each document, and can be programmed to copy everything in its path”. The documents were then stored on a simple USB flash drive, which are mostly banned inside the NSA. After extracting the files, Snowden left from Hawaii to come to Hong Kong, staying at the Mira Hotel. From there, he contacted Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian, simply saying, “I am a senior member of the intelligence community.” while sending a sample of documents to prove of his position. Greenwald and American journalist Laura Poitras flew to Hong Kong to meet Snowden face-to-face. Snowden proceeded to hand over countless classified documents, resulting in the biggest leak in the history of the United States. After the reports by The Guardian were released, the US government was quick to defend the NSA and its practices. President Obama defended the NSA’s programs, claiming that “lives have been saved” and also that phone and Internet surveillance conducted by the NSA is “narrow”. Meanwhile, numerous politicians and pundits have come out to either praise or denounce the efforts from both the NSA and Edward Snowden. Snowden decided to leave Hong Kong after “he learned he could spend years in prison without access to a computer during the process to determine his asylum in Hong Kong or extradition to the U.S.”. After his decision to leave, he mulled several different possible spots to relocate. Snowden ended up in Russia, which further infuriated his detractors. Russia granted Snowden asylum for one year and as of late January 2014, Russian officials “opened the door to Snowden staying there indefinitely”. Snowden has occasionally made online appearances and interviews, such as the SXSW conference on March 10th, speaking about internet freedom and other topics. This has made him a sort of celebrity and a much sought-after figure. The young man from Elizabeth City, North Carolina has turned into a hotly debated topic: is he a hero, or a traitor? Should he be granted amnesty or spend the rest of his life in prison? It might take months, years or decades before we see the real impact of this story, and his fate.

Conclusion and opinion

In conclusion, Edward Snowden’s name will be in history books for ages, some will brand him as a hero of the public others will see him as a country traitor depending in where you look. American citizens’ opinions were divided on this point, some saw the good side and believed that Snowden was a whistleblower to the public, that he was brave enough to risk his right to live as a freeman in order to warn the people and pulled back the curtains to reveal the shocking extent of the government’s unconstitutional actions; however, many felt that he was a thief who sold the country’s secrets aiming to harm their nation. In my opinion, NSA’s surveillance program cannot be justified, Instead of providing safety to their citizens’ the government was tracking phone calls and online communication between the citizens using the servers of about nine internet firms. So, Snowden’s actions were considered as theft and betrayal and this doesn’t. What the government did was a crime against the American citizen’s privacy. Gathering numerous amount of information about hundreds of millions of privet lives such as, phone calls, e-mail messages, friends and contacts, how they spend their days where they spend their nights cannot be justified as “country protection” and it’s unethical in every aspect, all Snowden did was raise the people’s awareness of the government’s authority abuse. Although Snowden’s actions is considered legally as a crime considering that the value of information he has revealed and the government’s abuse he exposed, Snowden deserves a better than the life of permanent exile, fear and runaways. He have done a great services to his country’s citizens leaving behind the luxurious life he had working with NSA. In short, without Snowden’s heroic actions citizens of America wouldn’t know how hypocritical their government is. Hence, I think it’s time for the USA to offer Snowden some kid of a pale bargain that would allow him to return home and reduce his punishments in light of his role as a whistleblower.


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  • J. Scott, ‘NSA Officials: Snowden Emailed With Question, Not Concern.’ NBC News, 2015 [Online]. Available: https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/edward-snowden-interview/nsa-officials-snowdenemailed-question-not-concern-n118011
  • P. Yost, ‘Snowden charged with espionage, theft in NSA case’, The Seattle Times, 22 June 2013. [Online]. Available: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/snowden-charged-with-espionage-theftin-nsa-case/
  • The Editorial Board, ‘Edward Snowden, Whistle-Blower’, The New York Times, 1 January 2014. [Online]. Available: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/02/opinion/edward-snowden-whistle-blower.html
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  • Ellen Nakashima, ‘Independent review board says NSA phone data program is illegal and should end’, the Washington Post, 23 January 2014. [Online]. Available: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/independent-review-board-says-nsa-phone-data-program-is-illegal-and-should-end/2014/01/22/4cebd470-83dd-11e3-bbe5-6a2a3141e3a9_story.html?utm_term=.0f653545875e
  • Abigail Geiger, ‘How Americans have viewed government surveillance and privacy since Snowden leaks’, Pew Research Center, 4 June 2018. [Online]. Available: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/06/04/how-americans-have-viewed-government-surveillance-and-privacy-since-snowden-leaks/
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  • Hugh Handeyside, ‘We’re Demanding the Government Come Clean on Surveillance of Social Media’, American Civil Liberties Union Organisation, 24 May 2018. [Online]. Available https://www.aclu.org/blog/privacy-technology/internet-privacy/were-demanding-government-come-clean-surveillance-social
16 December 2021
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