Snowden: Hero or Traitor?

In a roundtable discussion, three NSA officials Thomas Drake, William Binney and J. Kirk Wiebeprevious NSA whistle-blowerstell USA TODAY that Edward Snowden’s claims vindicate them.

When Edward Snowden, a Booz Allen contractor, revealed top-secret details this month on the government’s collection of Americans’ phone and Internet records, he went straight to the media.

When they became convinced that fundamental constitutional rights were being violated, they complained first to their superiors, then to federal investigators, congressional oversight committees and, finally, to the news media.

For years, the three whistle-blowers had told anyone who would listen that the NSA collects huge swaths of communications data from U.S. citizens.

Today, they feel vindicated.

On Sunday, officials said that though the NSA is authorized to collect “geolocational” information that can pinpoint the location of callers, it chooses not to. Other major phone companies including AT&T and Sprint Nextel also operate under similar orders, reports the WSJ.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney said on Sunday that Edward Snowden has done “enormous damage” to the United States’ anti-terror programs and called Snowden a “traitor.”

In a statement released this weekend, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (currently “down”), said the NSA program doesn’t collect “any cell phone locational information.”

In 2012, for example, fewer than 300 phone records of Americans were reviewed, and that review was confined to information that was “associated with specific foreign terrorist organizations,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, Apple said that in the 6 months between Dec. 1, 2012 and May 31, 2013, it received between 4,000 and 5,000 requests from U.S. law enforcement for customer data.

Officials say the phone records program helped the NSA stop a 2009 al-Qaida plot to blow up New York City subways.

In the late nineties, Binney estimated that there were some two and a half billion phones in the world and one and a half billion I.P. addresses. Approximately twenty terabytes of unique information passed around the world every minute. Binney started assembling a system that could trap and map all of it, says author Jane Mayer in The New Yorker.

The NSA can do what Google does with your e-mails and Web searches—only with everything that flows across the Internet. The aggregated data can be pulled into other tools for analysis, such as Palantir’s analytic databases and its Graph application which builds a visualization of the links between “entities” based on attributes and relationships.

Related articles include NSA’s Utah Data Center, NSA Collects Blanket Phone Records,
NSA Revelations: “Tip of the Iceberg”, NSA on the Hotseat, Cyber Security Act of 2009, Surveillance State, Top Secret America: The Book, How Your Location & Preferences are Recorded , Behavioral Targeting: Kill/Capture, Drones Coming to US Airspace, Google Vs The Feds , Spy Video from Space, US Government: More Surveillance Power ,

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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