The U.S. National Security Agency, which is one of the most secretive intelligence gathering organizations in the world, was brought down when news of the PRISM program was leaked to both the U.K.-based Guardian and the Washington Post. Yesterday, the Guardian revealed the leak on the program to be a 29-year-old Edward Snowden, who volunteered to disclose his identity.
Just a day or so earlier, the NSA filed an official ‘crimes report’ into the leak, and that came just hours after the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, spoke in defense of the PRISM program. Clapper insinuated that the leak on the classified PRISM program was something very dangerous and disclosed with no regard for public safety. “Over the last week we have seen reckless disclosures of intelligence community measures used to keep Americans safe,” Clapper said.
The information was first leaked to the U.K’s Guardian, which first posted the information on Thursday and then more information 24 hours later. Immediately after the leaks hit the news, the NSA along with the FBI said they would be aggressively looking to find out how it was leaked.
Now less than a week after it became news, the Guardian has revealed the source of the leak to be a former CIA agent by the name of Edward Snowden. Snowden apparently agreed to a public interview with the Guardian in Hong Kong, where he disclosed even more information on the program, and some of his information seems to contradict what the current U.S. Director of Intelligence has told the public.
What makes this case so different than any other, is the fact that it deals with the NSA, which is renown for its ultra-secret inner workings gathering electronic-based intelligence. This is the first case in which such an in-depth program was leaked to the public, and it has resulted in a firestorm of questions pouring in from the media from all around the globe
Clapper said the PRISM program, which he referred to by name, has been mischaracterized by the media and blown way out of proportion. He refuted any claims that it targeted U.S. citizens and said it was not only perfectly legal but that it has successfully stopped many terrorist threats. However, Snowden’s interview with the Guardian says otherwise, and he even went as far to say that anyone, as long as he had an E-mail address, could be traced and that even included such officials as high up as the President.
When asked why he came forward with the PRISM program he told the Guardian,
“The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your emails or your wife’s phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards.”
When the President and Clapper both told the public that safeguards were set in place to protect everyday citizens, Snowden’s interview contradicted their statements. When asked if some kind of security could be set in place to prevent unauthorized viewing to protect against state surveillance, Snowden said that it could not, and it was just another reason why he came forward with the information.
“You are not even aware of what is possible. The extent of their capabilities is horrifying. We can plant bugs in machines. Once you go on the network, I can identify your machine. You will never be safe whatever protections you put in place,” Snowden said.
On Saturday June 8th, the Guardian published what said to be more classified documentation leaked out of the NSA, which was revealed to be from Edward Snowden. The spy agency was also described to have a data-mining tool used inside NSA that collects ‘metadata’ from Internet traffic not just within the U.S. but also from around the world. Code-named,“Boundless Informant” this program “allows users to select a country on a map and view the metadata volume and select details about the collections against that country.”
Long before Snowden came forward with the information on the PRISM program and information on ‘Boundless Informant’, the Justice department along with the IRS had been going through a lot of their own controversies. One matter in particular that resulted in a fierce backlash was the Justice Department’s targeting and pursuing records of conservative news organizations and the Associated Press where the department forced those media outlets to disclose their sources of information.
Holder said he was displeased with how his department acted, and said he will make it known that reporters will not be targeted any longer simply for doing their jobs.
From what has been revealed to the public from the recently declassified information on Prism, the program began under the presidency of George W. Bush in 2007 and part of the growing trend in fighting global terrorism. The report turned in by National Intelligence Director Clapper says that it had seen “exponential growth” under Obama, and that the NSA often relied on PRISM as their main source of intelligence data when giving reports to the president.
Snowden agreed that Obama has pushed the program even further and that while he did not vote for him as President in 2008, he waited enthusiastically to see what changes he might make since he believed in what the President said. “But I believed in Obama’s promises. I was going to disclose it [but waited because of his election]. He continued with the policies of his predecessor.”
Snowden says he was happy to see how the public reacted to the leak, but that he never expects to see home again because of his actions.