The Snowden Files by Luke Harding
Edward Snowden was a 29-year-old computer expert working for the dreaded National Security Agency when he exposed previously unknown universal mass surveillance programs by world’s most efficient spying organisation. Snowden should count himself lucky as such breaches leads death as Gordon Corera wrote about MI6. His story is comprehensively told in this Luke Harding’s book The Snowden Files: the inside story of the world’s most wanted man. Edward Snowden is arguably, the biggest whistleblower in history as chronicled in the book. Luke Harding tells Snowden’s astonishing story from the day he left his gorgeous girlfriend in Honolulu carrying a hard drive full of intelligence material, to weeks of his secret revealing in Hong Kong, to his battle for asylum and his exile in Russian capital. Starting with Glen Greenwald, who was based in Brazil, started to receive documents that detailed the methods of United States of America intelligence agencies that were on offer. Once this material was in their hands, they proceeded to expose how both Anglo- American eavesdropping agencies were hoovering up vast quantities of data from across the planet, storing unlimited records of texts, emails and phone calls.
In the book, Glen Greenwald is instructed on how to install encryption software on his computer. NSA documents were sent and decoded, an underground plan hatched. Greenwald,Laura Poitras a documentary maker and senior Guardian journalist Ewen MacAskill met Edward Snowden in the Mira Hotel, Hong Kong on Tuesday 4 June 2013. When I read Gideon Spies by Gordon Thomas, it was clear we commoners know absolutely nothing about what i call ‘mainstream world’ and what followed was the Mira Hotel meeting was the most spectacular intelligence breach ever, brought about by one extraordinary man from Uncle Sam. Edward Snowden did what was many consider as the most daring revelation of secret service techniques in a 17 minute interview filmed and edited by Laura Poitras. Luke Harding describes the moment in Mira Hotel when Ewen MacAskill took out his iPhone and asked Snowden whether it was ok to tape the interview and take some photos. But “Snowden flung up his arms in alarm… as if prodded by an electric stick…”. and explained that the spy agency was capable of turning a mobile phone into a microphone and tracking device; bringing it into the room was an elementary mistake in operational security. After that, top secret NSA files, hundreds of them, were then disseminated to few selected journalists in different parts of the world. Then United Sates security agents were after Edwards Snowden but he fled from Hong Kong which was caving to pressure to hand over Snowden from United States to Moscow despite the US authorities revoking his passport.
With nowhere to go beyond the Moscow airport transit lounge, Russina President Vladimir Putin granted Edward Snowden temporary asylum. Apparently, Snowden ended up being holed up in an unnamed location. Snowden’s video interview and NSA document slides went viral. A brave journalist’s team of Britain’s most respected newspaper The Guardian sifted and translated a trove of intelligence material for world consumption. Even Germany’s weekly newspaper was not left behind. Others like Jacob Applebaum demonstrated to the world National Security Agency’s spying techniques. Although senior intelligence officers in the United States and the United Kingdom were alerted in advance, with each new Snowden leak, the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, White House, Military Intelligence 5, Military Intelligence 6 and Britain’s eavesdropping agency Government Communication Headquarters were in damage control mode but it was a case of too little too late. Snowden’s revelations about scope of official surveillance had been been described by then as extraordinary. Under George Bush and Barack Obama Presidencies, the secret services in United States were empowered to intercept and data-mine interpersonal communication and private records. Civil rights activists claimed after Edward Snowden’s revelation that Americans constitutional protections for individual rights were circumvented by spy agencies. Luke Harding brings together the many sources of the story touching on everything from concerns about domestic spying to the complicity of the technology sector in United States of America. For example, since social media arrived, intelligence and security agencies in Britain and United States they have not relied on professional spies to elicit information.
According to the book, we have been giving spies all their information freely through their routine use of modern day computing gadgets Galaxy Tab, iPads, iPhones and Social media accounts like Google +, Twitter, Whatsapp, Viber, Facebook and Youtube among others as these kind of surveillance operations have quickly become global in scope. Thanks to Edward Snowden, Anglo-American security agencies spies on the entire world, without restriction disregarding any existing stated rationale. An operational framework called PRISM allows the NSA to obtain collected information from the servers of Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple and Pal-talk. Some of this information was supplied willingly, other information was secretly extracted from social media companies by the NSA.NSA analysts/hackers have destroyed all known encryption protocols that safeguard internet users’ privacy.They have even managed to slice through the much lauded Tor Network, a specialised web browser designed to hide one’s identity online.There is also NSA programme called X-Keyscore allows unauthorised analysts and hackers to search through vast databases containing emails, online chats, and browsing histories.Under the acronym TEMPORA, the NSA and GCHG have obtained access to the entire internet backbone through fibre optic cables. NSA and Britain’s GCHQ also routinely targeted journalists, activists, and human rights groups across more than 60 countries. In the book, author reveals how the NSA also spied upon diplomats and heads of states with the information gathered on foreign diplomats and national leaders is used to bend international diplomacy to America’s will. Edward Snowden is considered to be the first generation internet whistleblower and spooks know all too well that his disclosures will encourage and even inspire future whistleblowing activities.
Reading this book reminded me why real fear of the intelligence operatives who dominate our lives is a reality we have to live with. But as Edward Snowden proved, somebody will in future once again, blow the roof off and tell the world what ‘deep state’ is unto. Thanks to this book, I now know that every technological function of communication is also a function of surveillance. On the downside of Edward Snowden revelation, I believe when someone reveals that kind of information to the public, you get innocent people killed and with terror groups spreading fears all over the world, we really need intelligence agencies across the world to work with legally mandated framework and safely. For now, Edward Snowden lives in Moscow probably guarded by Russia’s intelligence agency. Definitely the world need more whistleblowers like Bradley Manning who got a 35 years jail sentence for leaking diplomatic cables to hacktavist Julian Assange, investigative journalists like Nick Davies and brave figures like Laura Poitras, Glen Greenwald but I urge them be responsible and mindful of those who work day and night risking their lives to guarantee us summer holidays free of life threatening attacks.Happy 2014 summer to all contadorharrison.com readers.