October 12, 2001: Patriot Act Passed


(A Closer Look)

9/11 was an event that struck fear into the hearts of people around the world, and this was
understandable. The government needed to be tough on terror and reassure citizens that they and
their families were safe. The Patriot Act, however, was a clear exploitation of the fear that ensued 9/11.
The Patriot Act was not mentioned often in “The Snowden Files”. When I conducted my own research of
FISA and the event’s that led up to NSA’s unparalleled covert power, it was clear that the Patriot Act was
the cornerstone of it all. It allowed government agencies to gather “foreign intelligence information”
from both U.S. and non-U.S. citizens. It removed the statutory requirement that the government proves
a surveillance target under FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) is a non-U.S. citizen and an
“agent of a foreign power”. In essence, it removed the legal barrier that required the explanation or
even a warrant for surveillance orders. This specific provision of the act (with amendments in secretive
courts) led to the data hoarding of The NSA we know and love today. The understanding of the event’s
that to the Patriot Act and eventually, the NSA’s unprecedented power proves the main idea’s
mentioned earlier. The very law is called “The Patriot Act”, this makes one feel inclined to conform to
the regulations in order to prove their patriotism. However, who was this feeling of patriotism
supposed to be for? Was it for George W. Bush and his notorious “War on Terror” or was it for the
constitution and what it stands for? It is clear now that the act only furthered the agenda of the “War on
Terror” rather than the American philosophy.

2007 – 2009: Snowden Posted to Geneva.

They say that one should never meet their heroes as it is sure to be a disappointment.
Snowden’s hero was the American philosophy, the constitution, and most importantly the formidable
agencies that protected American values. He was infatuated with the American way of life and the way
these agencies protected his rights. However, when he was posted to Geneva under diplomatic cover
for the CIA, he met his hero, and he was sorely disappointed. There was an incident during his time in
Geneva where CIA operatives tried to recruit a Swiss Banker in order to get hold of secret financial
information. Snowden witnessed the CIA do this by getting the banker drunk, encouraging him to
drive home (which he ended up doing) and then having the Swiss police arrest him. The agent in
charge of this case then offered to help and exploited the incident to successfully to recruit the banker.
Snowden also made a statement about his time in Geneva, “much of what I saw in Geneva really

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disillusioned me about how my government functions and what it’s impacts is in the world. I realized
that I was part of something that was doing far more harm than good” (page 37). This event changed
Snowden’s perception of the American system. After this event “any decision to spill US government
secrets was inchoate, an idea slowly forming in Snowden’s head” (page 37). This also relates to the idea
of patriotism, Snowden was a patriotic young man who had faith in the system. That is until the curtain
between what he thought of the government versus how they really carry out their duties fell. Without
this event Snowden, perhaps, would not have questioned The NSA’s actions or even considered them
through the Socratic Method they way he did. Perhaps he would have remained patriotic to his bosses
and leaders rather than his constitutional rights.

January 2009: Formative Controversies

While filling in an annual CIA self-evaluation form Snowden detected flaws in the system and
pointed them out to his boss. His boss told him to drop it but eventually allowed Snowden to test the
system for any weaknesses. Using his proficient skills with computers Snowden surely found flaws and
embedded some code and text in the software in a “non-malicious manner” to prove his point. His
immediate boss signed off on it but then a more senior manager discovered what Snowden had done
and was furious. Snowden, for his initiative, was rewarded with a derogatory report in his file. This event
was also extremely important in a timeline of events as it taught Snowden that complaining upwards
only led to punishment. This relates to the idea of having oversight for those in power. Similarly to
Drake Thomas, Snowden raised his concerns about a problem and was met with punishment rather
than acknowledgment.

June 9, 2013: Edward Snowden Revealed as Source

A vigilante like Batman masks his identity to protect the ones he loves. However, the hero of
this story does the exact opposite. It is not common for a source to reveal their identity, especially if it’s
on the scale of the information Snowden leaked. Snowden’s fear was the NSA figuring out what he was
up to and “sending the CIA or any of their third-party partners to render him…that’s a fear he will
live with for the rest of his life” (page 106). With him suppressed the truth of the NSA’s operations
would never come to light. He would spend the rest of his life in prison, effectively rendering all his
efforts futile. This was a possible outcome of the risk he was taking and he knew it. However, his
biggest fear was his family and his partner Lindsay Mills being dragged down because of him. He knew
that if he ran without ever revealing his identity it would be his family and loved ones who would suffer
in silence. In order to shine the NSA’s spotlight away from his loved one’s revealing his identity was a

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must. Additionally, Snowden revealing his identity was critical to the way everyone perceived the
enlightening information. It is a lot easier to comprehend a movement when there is a face to put to it.
The formal interview that Snowden presented after the leak of the Verizon and PRISM article’s was a
masterstroke in his plan to expose the Government’s actions. With the growing dependence on
technology, it was a plausible yet far-fetched idea that governments or foreign agents could intercept
anything one does on the internet. In fact, it was more of an urban myth or conspiracy theory that only
the ones with tin foil hats truly believed. There was no way the government could consciously disregard
the constitution that founded the fabric of that countries values right? However, having a credible, well
spoken, and sane person presenting this information with detailed accounts of his findings made it a
lot easier to digest the information. This event in the timeline is extremely important to both of the
main ideas mentioned earlier. Snowden came into the public eye facing scrutiny from many (of course
including the government) but praise from countless others as well. An iconic statement he made, in
his initial interview, sums up his motive as he said “I do not want to live in a world where everything I do
and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under.” – Edward Snowden.

June 23, 2013 – Present: Snowden’s Asylum

On June 21, 2013, the US Department of Justice formally indicted Snowden with “theft of
government property, two counts of violating the Espionage Act through unauthorized communication
of national defence information and willful communication of classified communications intelligence
information to an unauthorized person”. Snowden had two options, stay and face these charges in
court or run. Snowden felt as though with the charges presented he would not be able to make a case
for himself in front of a jury. This is due to the fact that the Espionage Act does not have a clause for
public interest or a Whistleblower, rendering Snowden unable to use intent as the defence. This
defence was probably his best bet but was now not of any use. One of Edward’s lawyers, Albert Ho,
believed that “Snowden might eventually prevail in a battle against US extradition. But in the
meantime, he would sit in jail while the Hong Kong courts considered his asylum case”(page 217).
Snowden needed Asylum but the chances of getting asylum soon in Hong Kong were slim as the legal
turmoil could carry on for years. He left Hong Kong on June 23 for Ecuador with a planned layover in
Russia. This plan was put on hold in Russia. He was stranded at Sheremetyevo International Airport in
Moscow because US authorities rescinded his passport. He was however granted temporary asylum by
Russia as they considered his application for permanent asylum. He was then eventually granted long-
term asylum. Just this year on January 18 Russia extended Snowden’s asylum till 2020.