Columns, Opinion

OLIVIER: Step aside, Snowden: new theft on the rise

Edward Snowden risked everything to expose the National Security Agency’s illegal spying programs to the American public. A hero in the eyes of millions, Snowden refused to keep in secrecy the lies deceiving citizens not only nationally but also worldwide. Brave enough to speak out against the wrongdoing of our country’s government surveillance agencies, Snowden did what many cannot find the courage to do. He stood up to defend the freedom and privacy that American citizens rightfully deserve, despite the potential consequences of high-profile corruption being exposed.

We are aware that Snowden’s motivations for revealing the NSA’s surveillance activity lay not in hateful retaliation, but rather in warning the public of the dangers he had witnessed firsthand as an employee in positions of privileged access. However, a new figure suspected of pulling private information has risen to the forefront in recent NSA activity, and his motivations remain unclear to the public.

NSA contractor Harold T. Martin III was privately arrested by the FBI on Aug. 27, charged with stealing government property as well as illegally removing and withholding classified documents belonging to the NSA. When questioned by FBI agents, Martin originally refuted having stolen the digital files and documents, claiming at a later time “he knew what he had done was wrong and that he should not have done it because he knew it was unauthorized,” according to an Associated Press article. The computer code Martin had allegedly taken into possession was said to have been developed by the NSA to hack computer systems of various foreign opponents including Russia, North Korea, China and Iran.

The United States has worked exceedingly hard throughout history to improve diplomatic relations with various countries around the world in an effort to create peace and productive cooperation. With the new knowledge of Martin’s intentions to unlawfully hack foreign governments’ computer systems, the United States will suffer a major setback with respect to experiencing positive correspondence between themselves and their most dangerous opponents.

While the NSA may be aiming to target individuals affiliated with foreign governments as well as those it suspects of terrorism, it is collecting the American public’s information to do so. A record of the majority of calls made in the United States is handed over to the NSA each day by major telecommunications companies including Sprint, Verizon and AT&T. Although many technology companies like Google, Yahoo and Facebook deny that the NSA is granted direct access to their servers, Facebook recently revealed private information belonging to up to 19,000 users to law enforcement agencies, one of them being the NSA.

The most riveting aspect of our NSA is its lack of needing an individualized warrant to listen to our calls and review our email content. Because of the vast amount of information captured, the NSA stores this information due to the difficulty in separating foreign from domestic communications. Martin provides the perfect example of the ease with which the NSA is able to seize our personal information, eventually exploiting it to grapple with foreign affairs.

As Martin’s case falls under scrutiny, investigators will focus on whether the contractor was responsible for a leak in August that revealed a number of electronic tools belonging to the NSA used to hack networks located around the world.  Released by a group known as the Shadow Brokers, that material was thought to have been captured by an outside force through means of hacking rather than by an insider. With news of Martin’s arrest, however, it is unsure whether that remains the case.

Let us not mistake Snowden’s act of bravery for sheer, malicious intent. Taking a stand for the safety and privacy of the American people against our government’s unlawful infringement in no way should be viewed disdainful. As for Martin, the reason our government is not to be trusted rests in the hands of deceitful offenders like himself.

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