NSA Leak Raises Questions

Twenty-nine-year-old American Edward Snowden came forward on Sunday as the person responsible for the National Security Agency (nsa) leak. Snowden provided classified documents on two large-scale surveillance programs by the United States government. The leak has touched off a national debate on privacy versus security.

Snowden worked as a contractor at the nsa and the cia. On Sunday, he allowed the Guardian and the Washington Post to reveal his identity.

Both papers had published a series of top-secret documents outlining two nsa surveillance programs last week.

One program gathers hundreds of millions of U.S. phone records, searching for possible links to known extremist targets abroad. The second, known as Prism, allows the government to tap into nine U.S. Internet companies to gather all Internet usage. The stated purpose of the program is to detect suspicious behavior that begins overseas.

The revelations have reopened the post-September 11 debate about individual privacy concerns versus heightened measures to protect the U.S. against extremist attacks.

The nsa asked the Justice Department to conduct a criminal investigation into the leaks.

President Barack Obama said the programs are authorized by Congress and subject to strict supervision of a secret court. But Snowden claims the programs are open to abuse.

[SOUNDBITE: Edward Snowden, former nsa contractor]

“I think that the public is owed an explanation of the motivations behind the people who make these disclosures that are outside of the democratic model.”

[SOUNDBITE: Ewen MacAskill, reporter for the Guardian]

“His main beef is that there’s this massive surveillance into everyone’s private lives and it’s basically been kept hidden. He sees this as an abuse of people’s right to privacy and abuse of the rights of Americans under the Constitution.”

[SOUNDBITE: Daniel Ellsberg, former military analyst who leaked Pentagon papers in 1971]

“But I fear for our rights. I fear for our democracy and I think others should too. And I don’t think, actually, that we are governed by people in Congress, the courts or the White House, who have sufficient concern for the requirements of maintaining a democracy.”

The disclosures come as the White House tries to manage the fallout from revelations that it secretly seized telephone records of journalists at the Associated Press and Fox News.

Experts say Snowden could face many years in prison for releasing classified information.

What does the Constitution say about this issue? Is the government within its rights, or is it abusing its power? Many Americans have no idea. Do you? To understand what is really happening in America today, read No Freedom Without Law and America Under Attack.