The NSA had a rough time of it last week. It was revealed on Wednesday that the spy agency was collecting phone records from millions of Verizon subscribers. It was revealed a day later that the agency was also collecting online records from major tech firms like Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL and more. Now the whistleblower who revealed these surveillance programs has revealed his true identity.
After publishing the leaks last week, The Guardian revealed that Edward Snowden, a former technical assistant for the CIA, was behind the leaked documents. He was able to obtain said documents thanks to his current job as an outside contractor working with the NSA.
So, why reveal his identity so soon? He said that has "no intention of hiding" because he know that's he done nothing wrong. Those who support whistleblowers will back him up, but the Obama administration will undoubtedly slap him with charges of violating the Espionage Act. Even so, he says he is ready to give up his life, which includes his family in Hawaii, to stand up for what he believes in:
"I'm willing to sacrifice all of that because I can't in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they're secretly building."
Snowden is currently hiding out in Hong Kong, but he doesn't even know how safe that is. He may be able to seek asylum in Iceland, however, as a member of its parliament, Birgitta Jonsdottir, has said that she'll work with her government to ensure a speedy application process in the event he decides to seek asylum with the nation.
Back at home, the House Intelligence Committee has called for Snowden to be prosecuted. House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers said that the leaks endangered American lives:
“Taking a very sensitive classified program that targets foreign person on foreign lands, and putting just enough out there to be dangerous, is dangerous to us, it's dangerous to our national security and it violates the oath of which that person took."
Rogers then argued that Snowden could have taken the matter up with Congress to investigate any potential abuses:
“I argue that there's other methods. He could come to the committees, if they had concern. We have IGs that they can go to in a classified way if they have concern."
On the other hand, Sen. Rand Paul, who has been very vocal in his opposition to the NSA, has said that he plans to use the public outrage against the NSA to fuel a Supreme Court challenge against the agency:
“I’m going to be asking all the internet providers and all of the phone companies: Ask your customers to join me in a class action lawsuit. If we get 10 million Americans saying we don’t want our phone records looked at then maybe someone will wake up and something will change in Washington."
The debate over the NSA spying programs and what to do with Snowden is just beginning. We're going to see and hear a lot more about the NSA over the coming weeks and months as people begin to ask more questions, and lawmakers debate the effectiveness and constitutionality of spying programs.
In short, you better strap in. It's going to be a bumpy ride.