Team Edward

Ashley Babbitt

Possessing or showing courage or determination in the face of danger. That’s the definition of valiant. Synonymous with heroic, brave, and even plucky… a word I love.

A person who betrays a friend, country, or principle. That’s the definition of traitor. Synonymous with recreant, dastard, and renegade. The crime of betraying one’s country is referred to as treason.

I would hope by now you’ve heard of Edward Snowden. If not, I’ll provide a quick breakdown.

Edward Snowden, 29, was employed by the government contractor Booz Allen Hamilton as an infrastructure analyst for the National Security Agency (NSA), and had worked out of the Virginia based company in Hawaii for less than three months. Three fourths of this private company’s 25,000 employees hold government security clearances and half of their employees hold top secret clearances. Snowden worked for the CIA previously, and most likely retained the security clearance he gained with that position. Once he left the government position and moved to private contractors, he was able to keep his clearance, which granted him access to offices, files, communications and computer networks. He had worked for the NSA through various private contractors for the past four years. It was announced Tuesday that Snowden was fired from Booz Allen Hamilton.

Snowden decided to disclose top-secret information to the public regarding actions that are being conducted by the NSA including their program codenamed PRISM. The program accesses data held by internet companies including Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, Skype and others (Some heads of these companies have released statements denying the allegations, but as for me, I take whatever Mark Zuckerberg has to say with a grain of salt). The data obtained contains detailed online actions including social media activity, live chats and the contents of emails.

There is an interview with Snowden readily available online where he lays out not only what PRISM is all about and how the US government is blatantly violating our privacy, but how he feels about coming forward. Watch it if you haven’t already. I implore you.

In the interview he states, “The NSA specifically targets the communications of everyone. It ingests them by default. It collects them in its system and it filters them and it analyzes them and it measures them and it stores them for periods of time simply because that’s the easiest, most efficient and most valuable way to achieve these ends. So while they may be intending to target someone associated with a foreign government, or someone that they suspect of terrorism, they are collecting your communications to do so.”

Now, the argument has been made that the actions being carried out by the NSA are completely legal because a warrant must be obtained to look further into an individual’s information. …My question is then, do you trust the government? You believe what it tells you? If you want to blindly follow and trust what you’re told, so be it – but that means we’re in different zones completely.

The 2011 Analyst’s Desktop Binder of the Department of Homeland Security was released due to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. Beginning on page 21 of this document are the key words analysts monitor on social media sites to pinpoint “threats.” After reading the list of key terms multiple times, I feel like I can say with confidence the majority of people I know have used these terms on social media sites, likely on a regular basis. Here are just a few: Cops, militia, deaths, shooting, sick, pork, cloud, Mexico, burn, North Korea, subway, cancelled, electric, marijuana, drug war, bust, Afghanistan, snow, social media, homegrown, power lines, worm.

Yes, you read those correctly. Sick, worm, pork. …Awesome, right?

“The government has granted itself power it is not entitled to. There is no public oversight. The result is people like myself have the latitude to go further than they are allowed to,” said Snowden in the interview. “Even if you’re not doing anything wrong, you’re being watched and recorded. …it’s getting to the point where you don’t have to have done anything wrong, you simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody, even by a wrong call, and then they can use this system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you’ve ever made, every friend you’ve ever discussed something with, and attack you on that basis, to sort of derive suspicion from an innocent life.”

If this stuff isn’t sending chills up and down your spine or striking a nerve with you… I’m sorry.

Stripped of our privacy, what do we have left? Our freedom of speech is being infringed daily, New York is not an ideal place to live if you’re a gun owner or value the second amendment, property rights are being violated continuously, and I could continue, but won’t for the sake of brevity. The revelation of this information by Snowden – hopefully – has opened the eyes of everyone living their cozy little life.

The Obama Administration stood behind the actions of the NSA asserting it uses legal means to obtain the information. Check out the video on YouTube comparing Obama pre-presidency in 2007 and the speech he made just days ago. …How’s that “change” working out for you?

In regards to Snowden, Speaker of the House John Boehner said Tuesday in an interview, “”He’s a traitor…The president outlined last week that these were important national security programs to help keep Americans safe and give us tools to fight the terrorist threat that we face.”

I wholeheartedly disagree with Boehner and whoever else thinks Snowden is a traitor, or thinks he has committed acts of treason.

How many people are actually scared of terrorism? – Now that’s a legitimate question I have – but I understand the answers will differ based geographical location. I’m honestly not, and I don’t think it’s because of all the “security measures” the government has in place. The last two times I flew I was escorted to a special area where I was directed to wait for a female TSA agent to arrive, who then told me to remove my shirt because she had to inspect my “sensitive areas.” How many terrorist plots has the TSA foiled since its inception? Costing about 8 billion dollars per year you’d think it’d be pretty effective. I don’t think so. I didn’t feel one bit safer, just ridiculously violated.

Do I trust our government? Simply put, no – and I’ll leave it at that for now, because I could ramble on forever. But do you? And what are you willing to give up for the sake of so-called “security?”

Are you willing to give up your comforts, your family, the life you know, to awaken the world if only for a short time? Snowden was.

Said Snowden, “The great fear that I have regarding the outcome for America of these disclosures is that nothing will change. [People] won’t be willing to take the risks necessary to stand up and fight to change things… And in the months ahead, the years ahead, it’s only going to get worse. [The NSA will] say that… because of the crisis, the dangers that we face in the world, some new and unpredicted threat, we need more authority, we need more power, and there will be nothing the people can do at that point to oppose it. And it will be turnkey tyranny.”

I, for one, am all for changing things. What we have now isn’t working. More authority, more power… that is not what the government needs at all.

Edward Snowden was in a hotel in Hong Kong when he was interviewed. He had mentioned thoughts of seeking asylum in Iceland. He has since checked out of the hotel where he was staying and his whereabouts are currently unknown. He expressed fears the harmful effects on his family, who he said he will no longer be able to help.

He also stated, “I do not expect to see home again.”

You know what, folks…. go ahead… spend $15 dollars to go watch your hero in a cape stop the bad guys on a big screen – I heard one of those movies just came out. He may even do something fancy in a phone booth. Then go home, turn on the news and hear the real hero – the plucky Edward Snowden – being deemed a traitor for revealing what he knows is a violation of our rights. Or, save your money, turn off your TV and do some reading, or at least some thinking.

A friend of mine begged me to go with her to see Twilight when it came out however many years ago. Against my better judgement, I did… yuck. Afterward I was asked if I was “Team Edward” or “Team Jacob.” I honestly had no opinion.

Today, I can say with absolute pride I am Team Edward… Edward Snowden, that is.