NSA Files: Decoded

To look more deeply into the legal, social and ethical aspects of the media, questions which are based on The Guardians online article ‘NSA Files: Decoded’ which extensively summarises the global news story surrounding Edward Snowden and where he leaked highly classified NSA documents.

Points worthy of highlighting include:

  1. Who is Edward Snowden?
  2. Do you think Edward Snowden was right to leak the documents that he did?
  3. What is the argument in defense of Snowden?
  4. What is his opposing argument?
  5. Can we have freedom and privacy in today’s interconnected world?
  6. What would you do if you were the journalist Snowden contacted and why?

1) Edward Snowden was a NSA operative who leaked highly classified information regarding the NSA’s activity in monitoring and its activities in monitoring people of the world via social networks and other means.

2) Personally, I think it’s a very thin line on whether it’s definitively right or wrong. On the one side, the story does serve the public interest and on that basis is right to have it in the public domain. But when you consider the work the NSA does, it can, and could, jeopardise operations ongoing which could help save the lives of many people. If I had to give an opinion on whether he was right or wrong, Id lean on the side of him being wrong as he had a duty to his country and consciously went against the NSA and knowingly leaked information.

3) To defend Edward Snowden’s actions, he made aware the activities of what the NSA were monitoring were delving into people’s social media accounts and possibly raising how ethically sound the NSA’s practices were and whether they are invading too much into people’s privacy. Snowden’s actions raised the point that the constitution provides people protection against unreasonably searches unless a warrant is issued…should the constitution apply to the internet with this new age of connectivity and social media?

4) The opposing argument would be that the nature of what the NSA does requires secrecy and digression and, as already stated, could jeopardise operations around the world, (providing information to US and allied forces in Afghanistan, defending America against cyber attacks and monitoring Mexican drug cartels.) Its widespread acknowledgment of its existence could risk lives as former NSA general counsel member Stewart Baker stated that the proof of having the PRISM system in place is that the lack of it cost the lives of 3,000 people in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This view is also shared by British Prime Minister David Cameron.

The NSA assures people that the information it collects is only a tiny proportion of the worlds internet traffic, and what it does track has relevance to security and protecting its citizens.

5) In today’s society of being a part of an interconnected world, I don’t feel it is possible to have both freedom and privacy; especially in regard to social media. It is now acceptable to give out information that, in a  bygone time, would have been reluctant to give out. With mobile devices and other handheld technology, it has never been so easy to stay connected with the world- and because of this our privacy is reduced as our presence online is ever-growing.

6) If I would have been the journalist who had been contacted with the information which Edward Snowden had decided to leak, then hypothetically I would have decided to run with the story as I feel it is within the public interest to know about it…even though I wouldn’t have agreed with Snowden’s decision to leak it. The onus was on Snowden and a journalist has a responsibility to make a judgement call on whether to print it in their newspaper.


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