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article imageOp-Ed: More bunk on 'hero' Edward Snowden, this time from a professor

By Marcus Hondro     Sep 2, 2013 in World
Look, I'm a guy in a living-room in his boxer-shorts pleading with his son to stop hucking a ball against a bedroom wall and seeking a grasp of our reeling world. I shouldn't be better at analyzing the Edward Snowden affair than, oh say, a professor.
But I am.
I've managed to do a better job of analyzing Edward Snowden than a professor by simply paying attention to known facts. Snowden is of course the self-appointed American hero who, after signing documents stating he would not do such a thing as a condition of employment, released some of his country's classified information to the world (which speaks to his integrity, or lack thereof, no?). He then, this grand civil-rights crusader, turned tail and fled to Russia, a country whose reputation is deteriorating faster than Justin Bieber's. It's also a country whose burgeoning dictator of a leader, Vladamir Putin, cares as little for civil rights as he does for gays.
Professor: "tapped and mapped"
There is a professor I have in mind - though many others have made similar mistakes since the entire overblown affair began - but one that recently rankles is Prof. Stefan Svallfors, a Professor of Sociology at UmeƄ University (Sweden) and at the Institute for Future Studies (Denmark). Professor Svallfors published a piece on Snowden in a Swedish paper, Sydsvenska Dagbladet, last Thursday.
He claimed that Snowden revealed "a surveillance system where innocent citizens get their electronic communication and their phone calls tapped and mapped." It's a common misconception about the entire affair and one thing blatantly wrong about it is the vast majority are not "tapped and mapped" as few are ever even looked at. And it's not really a surveillance system, they're simply getting records from phone companies, something that's long been done by law enforcement.
The professor clearly doesn't watch 'CSI Crime Drama: Stockholm' but for the record police routinely, in countries the world over, get warrants and obtain phone records and the keeping track of phone records by the companies is automatic. Indeed, prior to PRISM with a warrant, the U.S. government could go to a judge and, if they provided cause, the judge would grant them a warrant and compel a phone company to hand over any records in question to the agency seeking them.
NSA: Must obtain warrant
Yeah, the American NSA's PRISM program has obtained these records beforehand but they still need a warrant to actually view them. So they've eliminated one step but not the crucial one. By saving that one step they claim there are times when, having only to show cause and obtain the warrant and not then have to wait for the record to be released to them, they were able to ward off threats.
Believe them or not, as you please, but logic dictates such a scenario, if it hasn't already happened, is likely to happen at some time. And one of the bigger points here is that Mr. Snowden did not reveal one incident in which PRISM looked at a citizen's phone record without first showing cause and obtaining a warrant. Not even one.
That's some surveillance system.
And truly none of this was revealed by Mr. Snowden, for you cannot reveal something that has already been known. As I've noted in this space before, Leslie Cauley wrote a piece for USA Today in 2006 in which she said that "The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY."
Not so secret if USA TODAY knew and told all of America 7 years ago but nonetheless Mr. Snowden and Glenn Greenwald told the world it was secret. And so did the professor, whose skills at research should be more honed. If anyone is a whistleblower in all this, it should be Ms. Cauley and her editor, that is unless someone else made the information available to the public even before they did.
PRISM: Not monitoring, not illegal
There are other false bleatings in Prof. Svallfors' elegant hyperbole and the one which stands out the most is his claim that Snowden deserves an award called the Sakharov Prize for: "...his disclosure of the extensive, illegal and deeply intrusive monitoring conducted by the American National Security Agency." (Andrei Sakharov is the late-Soviet human rights activist, who would have been loathe to live in the Russia Snowden so eagerly fled to.)
The first thing to note about this pronouncement is nothing illegal was exposed, everything PRISM is doing is in fact legal, and anyone who doesn't like it should have, especially given Ms. Cauley's story during the Bush era, been paying attention and making their objections known long before the self-serving Edward Snowden came along.
And they are not really monitoring anybody, for to monitor communications they would have to look at them, and they can't. Nothing is being looked a without a warrant, obtained by showing just cause to a judge. Taken in context only a miniscule amount of records will ever be looked at. And, should a judge approve it, those records looked at will frequently be calls initiated from overseas, more often not made by American citizens.
Hardly a citizenship facing "extensive" or "deeply intrusive monitoring." The language sounds good, professorial even, but there are no facts to back it up - it's bunk.
Nada: Snowden does nothing for world
To solve governments needing legally obtained communication records on individuals or on groups, we have to look at eliminating violence and creating a world that shares resources - we can't depend only on the Occupy Movement to fight for that - and gives everyone a chance at reaching their potential. I'd argue that along with most countries in the world, the U.S. should be doing more in support of that cause. But all of that has nothing to do with Mr. Snowden, whose actions were more harmful than helpful.
Look, I get it that there are adults who still have authority issues, if that's what's causing all this foolishness, what caused Mr. Snowden to commit his act of treason. But regardless of their uninformed outrage, know this: no one gives a damn about an email you write saying you might join a survival group in the woods of Michigan, much less a phone call where you tell your Aunt Judith you're bringing a guacamole dip to the party.
Because if you're not involved in something that will hurt any of the 310 million Americans the government is charged with watching out for, then PRISM doesn't care what you write or say and no U.S. judge would allow them to 'spy' on you in any case. Spending a winter in the cold woods of America with a group of oddballs in fatigues, okay, guacamole dips, okay, plotting to blow up an American landmark as people pass by, not so much.
Even if misguided and poorly researched professors who never got along with Mom and Dad suggest otherwise, PRISM gets to know only about that last one. Now if you would excuse me, that bouncing ball is driving me nuts and it's time to go do some pleading.
For sanity.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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