The strange journey of Edward Snowden and his actions leading up to this journey has made front pages in papers and blogs for the past two weeks now. The leaker—who worked as a contractor for the National Security Agency through Booz Allen Hamilton in a system administrator role—exposed the U.S government’s surveillance program and companies that they’ve worked with. The immediate result was a mixture of paranoia and further distrust of the government “listening in”, there was also some questions of what companies aren’t telling their user base.
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In the days following, several companies—Facebook, Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, etc—requested permission to tell their users something. Later, Facebook and Microsoft gave very similar notices of what NSA used information for and the amount of requests. According to these updates, they scope of the requested information spanned “For the six months ending December 31, 2013” and that “any and all government entities in the U.S (including local, state, and federal and including criminal and national security-related request” were provided with information. The information in question was used for finding missing children, investigating assaults, terrorist threats, hunting fugitives, and everything in between.
The numbers varied between Microsoft and Facebook and in Facebook’s case they made sure to let their users know that the requests were just a small sliver of the total base. An odd, but minor occurrence of this was that MySpace saw a bump in returning users given that it wasn’t one of the named social networking sites under PRISM.
Questions were brought up about the structure of the country’s surveillance programs that someone at Edward Snowden position could be privy to such sensitive information as well as the gaps in those programs that have led to various leaks in this decade and the past one. The answer given by insiders and officials was that the network overall is so large that it’s simply hard to manage everyone in whatever position. In other words: it’s a mess.
This brings us back to Snowden, who was holding out in Hong Kong for almost two weeks. Then came the charges of espionage resulting in Edward Snowden leaving the country entirely. WikiLeaks—which is helping Snowden—stated that he left for Moscow. It was stated by lawmaker Albert Ho that Hong Kong requested that Snowden leave and that he would not be stopped.
From there, the U.S expected Russia to hold Snowden and arrest him while others have stated that he could head to Ecuador—even though there are no direct flights to the country from Moscow. Heading into Ecuador via Cuba was also bounced around, but that scenario was dropped when Snowden wasn’t seen on the plane. Ecuador stated that it was considering Snowden’s request at asylum. Currently, they’re protecting Julian Assange of Wikileaks in the London embassy. Assange has said that he would try to get Snowden into Iceland.
The U.S has expressed concerns about Russia ignoring the United States’ request to arrest and hold. Interfax, a Russian new agency, has a currently unnamed source that stated Moscow’s hands were tied on arresting Edward Snowden since he wasn’t in Russian territory at the time.
Ecuador—which appears to be on of Snowden’s main destinations—is in a difficult spot. Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said that Quito would consider the United States’ request in regards to Snowden, but are also in contact with Russia about him. While he didn’t explicitly mention what the request about Snowden was, it’s almost a certainty that it was to arrest him. In Hanoi news conference Foreign Minister Patino stated, “We will consider the position of the U.S government and we will take a decision in due course in line with the (Ecuadorean) constitution, the laws, international politics and sovereignty.”
An unnamed source at Aeroflot stated that Edward Snowden had a flight booked for Havana Monday at 2:05PM, however there was sight of Snowden and his seat—17A—was occupied by someone else. The U.S revoked Snowden’s passport, closing the locations that the NSA leaker could head to.
Edward Snowden’s charges were handed down late last week. They include: theft of federal property, unauthorized communication of national defense information, and willful communication of classified communication intelligence to an unauthorized person—Glenn Greenwald and Barton Gellman. The second and third charges fall under the U.S Espionage Act.