That was my response at a 2013 dinner party when an old friend challenged me to sum up in one word how I felt about Edward Snowden informing the world that the United States government has the ability to spy on anyone who uses a digital device to communicate — virtually all of us.
Like me, many Americans were of two minds: dismayed that Snowden shared vital US intelligence with our enemies, but also grateful to learn that government can monitor every phone call, email, text, Facebook post we make. It can turn on our computers’ cameras and watch what’s happening. It can turn on microphones in our cell phones and hear whatever it’s picking up. It can locate any of us using our cellphones’ GPS function.
I’m not ambivalent anymore. Now I would urge President Trump to pardon Edward Snowden and let him return to the United States from Moscow where he’s been holed up for the last five years to avoid prosecution for treason. Snowden is a hero. Why?
After last Friday’s release of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) memo, I watched Oliver Stone’s movie “Snowden” during the making of which Stone collaborated with Snowden himself for accuracy. One horrifying scene depicted Snowden looking over the shoulder of another CIA hacker as he surveilled a Pakistani banker whose name Snowden had just given him. Using the capabilities Snowden revealed to all of us in 2013, the hacker then gathered information not only on the banker, but on everyone with whom the banker had any contact — and anyone with whom each of them had contact — in an ever-widening network.
The hacker started by watching the banker’s sister get undressed in her bedroom through the camera on her laptop she had left open on her desk. Then he went into the daughter’s Facebook account and those of all her friends. Facebook messages revealed her sexual activities with a boyfriend whose own account revealed that he was having sex with two other girls as well — also that the cheating boyfriend and his mother were living illegally in Geneva, Switzerland.
The CIA leaked that information to get the boyfriend deported whereupon the daughter had a nervous breakdown. Agents used additional information from the ever-broadening surveillance to totally screw up the unfortunate banker’s life. Snowden was horrified, but he continued using his computer hacking skills to benefit the CIA for years before he finally resigned in 2013 and told the world what was happening.
We may assume the intelligence community’s spying capabilities are even more powerful five years hence but here’s the kicker: the extent of surveillance on that poor Pakistani banker Stone’s “Snowden” movie depicted was also applied to Carter Page, the low-level Trump campaign volunteer on whom the Obama FBI and DOJ obtained a FISA warrant.
The rest is here.