Just as the controversy surrounding the National Security Agency’s surveillance practices was starting to blow over the Guardian has released information about the intrusive surveillance program. The follow-up piece to initial report focuses on a program name XKeyscore. This program allows the NSA to access information about your online history. By simply filling out an onscreen form the government can access your email, chats, and browsing history without obtaining a warrant or any other kind of authorization. The NSA, itself, says XKeyscore is the “widest reaching” program for monitoring the Internet. The NSA has defended the program as necessary to protect Americans from foreign threats. The government also claims that there are checks and balances within the system, which prevent intentional misuse of the program.
On the heels of the XKeyscore development, Edward Snowden has received asylum from Russia, which means he will not be extradited to the United States to face espionage charges. Russia has granted Snowden a year-long asylum despite the fact that the U.S. has promised that he will not tortured or be sentenced to the death penalty. Before granting Snowden’s asylum, Russian president, Vladimir Putin, said he would not extradite Snowden as long as he pledged to stop leaking information about American surveillance programs. Snowden said he cannot leak anymore information because he has already leaked all of the information he has.
I find the XKeyscore development very troubling. While it is very possible that the government is only using this system against foreign threats, it creates a slippery slope. Regardless of how the government is using right now, the NSA still has the capability to watch everything we do. With that kind of power, it could only be a matter of time before average citizens are monitored.
As far as Edward Snowden is concerned, I think he should have been extradited to face his espionage charges. I don’t believe Snowden should be considered a whistleblower. Even though these programs give the NSA the capability to monitor every U.S. citizens’ internet and phone usage, I haven’t seen any indication that the NSA actually used the program for anything other than targeting foreign threats. So in actuality all Snowden did was alert the foreign threats of the NSA’s surveillance.