Since the post 9/11 hysteria engulfing the United States has worn off, it has become increasingly evident that a state with 100 percent security and 100 percent freedom is virtually impossible. This past summer, we were abruptly reminded of this fault within our country by a young computer technician, Edward Snowden. In early June, there were highly secretive government documents leaked that proved the existence of an American security program which collects massive streams of phone and Internet data from the public. A 29-year-old defense contractor, Edward Snowden, who worked for the CIA and the National Security Agency as a technical assistant, revealed in a video interview from Hong Kong that he was the one who leaked the documents.
More recently, Snowden has been granted temporary asylum in Russia, and a few weeks ago leaked the “Black Budget,” which reports that the U.S. spends about $52.6 billion on covert action, surveillance and counterintelligence. The leak, released by The Washington Post in late August, revealed that the majority of the budget goes to the CIA. Snowden also revealed disturbing information that, despite the massive amounts of money being used for operations in China, Russia, Iran, Pakistan and North Korea, there are several “critical blind spots” in our intelligence, especially concerning North Korea, where the budget suggests we have little knowledge about their weapon programs or their intentions.
According to Snowden, he released the information in an attempt to “inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.” Soon after Snowden admitted to the leaks, it seemed as if the U.S. was immediately divided into those who believe Snowden was a traitor and those who believe he was a hero. While President Obama issued a statement that said, “I don’t think Mr. Snowden was a patriot,” he admitted that some “appropriate reforms” are in order, which could bring about the most changes to the anti-terror Patriot Act since it was originated after the 9/11 attacks.
The controversy surrounding Snowden has become so vast that it’s almost impossible not to have an opinion about it. Whether you’re reading this as a Snowden supporter or a Snowden hater, it’s important to think about what the information he leaked means for us as young Americans. When the 9/11 attacks occurred, most of Fordham’s student body was in elementary school. We did not have an opinion on what took place on that fateful day; instead, we were scared kids trying to understand why everyone seemed so upset. Now that we are college students, we can properly form our beliefs and ideals and contribute to the growing discussion and debates surrounding the Patriot Act, the NSA leaks and Edward Snowden. Even if we don’t have a strong opinion, the technological aspect of domestic surveillance affects America’s youth more than those who supported it 12 years ago. “I’m not sure how I feel personally about Edward Snowden,” Alyssa Dolan, FCRH ’16, said. “But I am wary of the fact that my phone and internet data records can be accessed so easily and I wasn’t fully aware of it.”
This internal conflict between our nationalistic tendencies and how we feel about domestic surveillance programs is a struggle that all Americans are currently trying to sort through. Sifting past various arguments surrounding Snowden’s education, his Russian asylum, whether he should be punished or not and if he betrayed his girlfriend, we always come back to the same burning question: Do we, as American citizens, hold safety or freedom more closely to our hearts?
Lindsay Philpott, FCRH ‘16, is an IPE major from Bergenfield, N.J.