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Snowden: The Evolution of a Whistleblower

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    This sample short essay from Ultius is all about Edward Snowden, and will look at how the computer tech changed the way Americans view national security as we know it, and became a federal fugitive in the process. Snowden, was a computer tech that worked for the National Security Agency (NSA),  as a contractor through the Booz Allen Hamilton government consulting service. He had just started working for the firm, after leaving a job at Dell where he worked initially on an assignment in Japan, and was then moved to their Hawaii office. Once he left Dell, he started at Booz Allen, and within three months, everything went haywire. Snowden grew up in the shadows of the big green cube off the Baltimore Washington Parkway, NSA’s Fort Meade office.

    Snowden: The evolution of a whistleblower

    His father stated that Edward’s education went awry after becoming ill with a fever. He missed almost six months of class, all while his parents were becoming more and more distant from one another. In 1999, Snowden enrolled in Anne Arundel Community College and took a variety of computer related courses. Snowden thought that the Internet was the best thing that had ever happened in history, and government surveillance via the internet wasn't a concern of his. At the beginning of his transition from boy to man, he was determined to enlist in the military, where he hoped he could help to save people who had been oppressed and become an elite soldier. However, this was never to come to pass. Snowden was discharged from the infantry training because despite being in good physical condition, he broke both legs during a training exercise.

    Snowden's life after the military

    Upon his return to Maryland in 2005, he was able to land a job at the University for Maryland's Centre for Advanced Study of Language. Snowden initially worked as a security guard, then he was switched into the IT department as a security specialist. As a consequence of his former, albeit stunted, military background, Snowden was able to work at an incognito NSA facility. This position provided him with access to the U. S. intelligence community. Snowden’s next foray into furthering his career led him to an IT position with the CIA. He was able to secure highly technical and security based positions despite his lack of a high school degree, because of his exceptional technical capabilities.

    In 2007, Snowden was sent to Geneva, Switzerland as a telecommunications information systems officer, where he ensured the security of the CIA’s vast computer network, in addition to overseeing technology security issues for U. S. diplomats. In 2009, Snowden resigned from the CIA, and was easily hired by Dell as a contractor for an NSA office on a military base located in Japan. At this point he had acquired top-secret clearance and was recognized for his computer acumen, but looming large was his disenchantment with the extent of the NSA’s unfettered ability to engage in surveillance since the signing of the Patriot Act. In 2012, Snowden was transferred from Japan, to Oahu, Hawaii, where he effectively worked as a spy examining, particularly on the foreign interests of the Chinese.

    Disenchantment leads Snowden to dissent 

    It was at this juncture that Snowden’s plan began to take shape. He left Dell and began working for Booz Allen. His contractor work at Booz Allen, although short, gave him inroads to information that he did not have access to at Dell.

    "My position with Booz Allen Hamilton granted me access to lists of machines all over the world [that] the NSA hacked . . ." - Edward Snowden

    In an interview with the South China Morning Post, Snowden explained that this was the exact reason he took the job with Booz Allen. He was among an elite group of system administrators who could look at NSA’s inner sanctum. He could access classified files and obtain information without his admittance leaving an electronic finger print. Snowden may have also used this access to encourage others to provide their login details to him.

    Snowden’s objective was to contact three journalists who had previously written about civil liberties issues, so that they could present the information that he had accumulated to the world. He contacted Barton Gellman, of the Washington Post, and two other journalists, and supplied them with top-secret NSA documents. Revelations continued to flow as global news organizations picked up the story. The whistleblower scandal came to the world’s attention in June 2013, when The Guardian reported that the NSA had been surreptitiously gathering American phone records.

    A secret court order approving Verizon’s release of the information on a daily basis was published. Next, The Guardian and the Washington Post divulged that the NSA accessed servers of numerous social media, technology and Internet companies, such as Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft and Google using Prism, a surveillance program that monitors Internet communication. Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters, or the GCHQ, was also accused of obtaining intelligence from the Internet companies through Prism. 

    The mind of Edward Snowden

    Snowden was excited by the rightwing political views of the Tea Party and their supporter, Ron Paul, the Libertarian Party nominee for President in 1988 and Republican candidate in the 2008 and 2012 primaries. He was also fascinated by Republican candidate John McCain. Quite surprisingly, the Snowden of 2009, felt that officials who provided classified information to journalists committed the most inconceivable of crimes. During his non-work hours he masqueraded as "TrueHOOHA" on Ars Technica, a technology aficionado’s forum, where he expressed his contempt for government whistleblowers. He had extensive conversations on the forum about how other governments, like Iran and others, would be able to access and use the leaked information to our detriment:

    Snowden's anti-leaking invective seems stunningly at odds with his own later behaviour, but he would trace the beginning of his own disillusionment with government spying to this time.

    "Much of what I saw in Geneva really disillusioned me about how my government functions and what its impact is in the world. I realized that I was part of something that was doing far more harm than good."

    He even left unrecognized clues with his co-workers by asking them what they thought about the information the NSA was collecting. Many were surprised to find out about it, and many others did not want to know any more information. Depending on exactly what Snowden said to his colleagues, this might have been the point at which his disclosures could have been cut off. The disillusioned technologist was so disturbed by the actions of his government, he was not overly concerned about himself. He said,

    "I'm willing to sacrifice [my former life] because I can't in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they're secretly building".

    The U. S. Government responds swiftly

    Snowden advised his supervisor that he had developed epilepsy and needed a leave of absence to deal with it. He then flew to Hong Kong and coordinated a covert meeting with journalists and a filmmaker. On June 5, 2013, the secret documents were released. On June 14, 2013, federal prosecutors charged Snowden with theft of government documents, communication of classified information and willful sharing of classified intelligence to an unauthorized person, the last two charges of which derive from the Espionage Act. These charges essentially label Snowden a cybercriminal and traitor in the eyes of the government. Snowden continued to hide out for just over a month. Ecuador was his intended asylum destination, but he was stranded in Russia when the U. S. government cancelled his passport. The Russians refused to extradite Snowden to the United States and gave him temporary asylum in July 2013. He remains in Russia today, as numerous countries have denied him permanent asylum.

    Solutions to a tricky situation

    In a particularly ironic move, Snowden’s lawyers intend to seek a presidential pardon from President Barack Obama on Edward’s behalf. The irony is that Snowden had an intense dislike for Obama once he became President, because of his attempts to ban assault weapons and his support of affirmative action. In addition, Snowden accused Obama of diplomatic “wheeling and dealing” regarding his extradition, and "using citizenship as a weapon". For lack of a better expression and the requirements of diplomacy in communication, you have to have a lot of chutzpah to proceed down a path such as this while simultaneously holding hostility against his administration.

    Perhaps, it was a sign of desperation. Josh Earnest, White House press secretary, said that based on a variety of comments Obama has made about Snowden and his actions, the President does not believe that what Snowden did could be considered a “public service,” as expressed by former Attorney General Eric Holder in a recent podcast, where he said that Snowden’s actions stimulated a public debate on the subject (Gass). In fact, Earnest, reminded listeners that Holder previously expressed that Snowden should return from his hiding place in Russia and deal with the extreme criminal charges with which he is faced.

    Snowbot

    In a more amusing aspect of the Snowden conundrum, Edward Snowden has been rolling around town in the United States. How you might ask? By way of Snowbot. Snowbot, a robot that allows Snowden’s telepresence is a $14,000 technology that allows Snowden to attend events by computer screen. The robot, also known as Beam Pro, allows Snowden to make public appearances through its remote physical presence. He recently appeared at the Tribeca Film Festival and at the Whitney Museum in New York. In an action that is at a minimum tongue in cheek, Snowden must enjoy the paradox of being able to scoot around town, not too far from the Federal Bureau of Investigation field office in Manhattan.

    The question being asked by this sample essay from Ultius is," for a person who wants to come home, is his behavior might the best course of action to get federal naysayers to warm to his cause? Is he a traitor, or a hero?

    Works Cited

    Crothers, Don. "Edward Snowden Wants To Return To America, But Only If He Gets A Fair Trial." The Inquisitr. The Inquisitr News. 21 February 2016. Web. 30 July 2016. 

    "Edward Snowden." Biography. A&E Television Networks, LLC. n. d. Web. 30 July 2016. 

    "Edward Snowden: Leaks that exposed US spy programme." BBC News. BBC. 17 January 2014. Web. 30 July 2016. 

    "Edward Snowden’s legal team to seek presidential pardon from Obama." RT. Autonomous Nonprofit Organization “TV-Novosti”. 27 June 2016. Web. 30 July 2016. 

    Finn, Peter and Horwitz, Sari. "U.S. charges Snowden with espionage." The Washington Post. Nash Holdings LLC.  21 June 2013. Web. 30 July 2016. 

    Gass, Nick. "White House: Obama does not think Snowden performed 'public service'". Politico. Politico, LLC. 31 May 2016. Web. 30 July 2016. 

    Gellman, Barton. "Edward Snowden, after months of NSA revelations, says his mission’s accomplished." The Washington Post. Nash Holdings LLC. 23 December 2013. Web. 30 July 2016. 

    Harding, Luke. "How Edward Snowden went from loyal NSA contractor to whistleblower ." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited. 1 February 2014. Web. 30 July 2016. 

    Masterson, Andrew. "Edward Snowden speaks about living in exile as America's most wanted." The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. 5 March 2016. Web. 30 July 2016. 

    Roberts, Dan and Carroll, Rory. "Edward Snowden: Obama guilty of deceit over extradition."  The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited. 1 July 2013. Web. 30 July 2016.

     
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    Ultius, Inc. "Snowden: The Evolution of a Whistleblower." Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services. Ultius Blog, 06 Jan. 2017. http://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/snowden-the-evolution-of-a-whistleblower.html

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