Recent revelations about National Security Agency (NSA) snooping on phone records, emails and Internet history have been used by some politicians to attack President Obama. Really? He not only inherited these programs from Dubya. By most accounts, he placed new restrictions on them.
Whatever the case, government spying on American citizens should be openly debated by all Americans and our representatives. Only the American people should decide how much privacy we’re willing to sacrifice in exchange for the prevention of terror attacks.
But while the media and Washington have been focused on each new revelation of the NSA program, several aspects have been relatively ignored.
One is that those collecting the information are not government agents or employees. They’re private companies. Edward Snowden was an employee of Booz Allen Hamilton, which is a publicly traded, for-profit corporation that has sucked up billions in revenue from government agencies such as the Department of Defense, all branches of the U.S. military, U.S. Intelligence, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Energy, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of the Treasury, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Security Agency.
As a result of the political right’s fascination with privatization, companies like Booz are now handling many of the tasks the government used to. The belief, although not proven, is that awarding government contracts to such companies will save money.
Apparently, it also makes information related to these tasks less secure.
Not satisfied with revealing aspects of the secret program, Edward Snowden has told the South China Morning Post that the US has been “hacking Hong Kong and China since 2009.” Great! So after turning many American citizens against their own government, Snowden is now attempting to turn other nations against it, too.
Another surprising aspect of the Snowden leak is that Booz Allen Hamilton was paying him a salary of $200,000! This is a 29-year-old who dropped out of high school, dropped out of the Army, and possesses a GED. According to his social media sites, his real expertise is playing video games.
Finally, after revealing classified information about what he considered to be US government abuses, Snowden moved to China, saying that he admired Hong Kong for its commitment to free speech! (Perhaps he should talk to a few of my Tibetan friends about China’s commitment to free speech. He can find many of them in Chinese prisons.)
Not surprisingly, all of this has made Snowden a “hero” to the tinfoil-hatted Glenn Beck. Upon reading an account of Snowden’s revelations and his flight to Hong Kong, Beck tweeted “I think I have just read about the man for which I have waited. Earmarks of a real hero.”
On the other hand, Richard “The Dick” Cheney scurried out of his hidey hole and pronounced Snowden a “traitor.”
For me, this poses a real dilemma. If Beck praises someone as a hero, I can usually count on that person being a lunatic. And if the black-hearted Cheney calls someone a traitor, I can usually count on that person to be the opposite.
So now what am I to believe?