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A Year Later, Most Americans Think Snowden Did The Right Thing

On anniversary of whistleblowing, 55 percent of Americans say Snowden was right to expose NSA's surveillance program; 82 percent believe they are still being watched.

A year ago this week, contractor Edward Snowden published documents exposing the National Security Agency's PRISM program, which included online surveillance of US citizens. Was he justified in doing so? More than half of Americans believe he was.

According to a survey scheduled to be published this week by research firm YouGov and commissioned by security firm Tresorit, 55 percent of employed Americans believe Snowden was right to expose PRISM. Eighty-two percent believe their personal information is still being analyzed by the US government, and 81 percent believe their personal information is being analyzed by corporations for business purposes.

Nearly one in two employed Americans name constitutional rights as the reason for their support of Snowden’s exposure of PRISM: 44 percent of employed Americans cite their civil rights as key reasons that they support Snowden’s cause. Snowden supporters tend to be younger: Just 20 percent of young adults aged 16-34 believe Snowden’s actions were wrong, compared to 41 percent of adults aged 55 or older.

More than half of those surveyed (51 percent) don’t know if their employers have taken measures to ensure that corporate files are secure. Only 32 percent of respondents report that their employer has taken such steps.

Thirty-seven percent of employed Americans say they have not taken any steps in the last year to ensure personal digital security, according to the survey. Forty percent of employed Americans say they have created stronger passwords, while one in four (26%) have created different passwords for different online accounts.

Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

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Robert McDougal
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Robert McDougal,
User Rank: Ninja
5/29/2014 | 10:26:39 AM
Definitely the right thing!
In my opinion, his actions were undoubtedly the right thing to do.  My reasoning is that the United States government was and continues to violate the 4th amendment of the constitution.  In essence, our government is willfully violating the law of the land.

The 4th amendment protects American citizens from unlawful search and seizure and sets forth the requirement of a judicial warrant issued based on probable cause.  Further case law (Katz v. United States) expanded the 4th amendment to protect citizens who "exhibit an actual expectation of privacy".  For example when I place a call to my friend I am exhibiting an expectation of privacy between my friend and myself.  Consequently, if I send an email to my friend, I should be exhibiting the same expectation of privacy, therefore any search and seizure of said email is in violation of the 4th amendment.

In my mind, the issue is as simple as that.  The US government is willfully violating a key civil right set forth in the constitution and we the citizens deserved to be made aware of that fact.
Andre Leonard
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Andre Leonard,
User Rank: Strategist
5/29/2014 | 11:34:11 AM
Re: Definitely the right thing!
Outstanding observation, summary and analysis. In the end, someone has to monitor the government for abuses. They cannot be left to monitor themselves. That's how we got into this mess.

 

 
PacoCW3
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100%
PacoCW3,
User Rank: Guru
5/29/2014 | 12:23:57 PM
Re: Definitely the right thing!
He was wrong.  He broke the law.  Breaking the law makes one a criminal.  This is fact. Majority of Americans do not think Showden did the right thing.  This article is biased, based on those who you chose to provide opinion polls.

If one wants to discuss ethics or morality and the laws there is ability for this discussion, because we are a republic.  The power of America is we can discuss and adjust, remove or write laws that are seen as unjust, unethical, and so not right, or are needed to make the situation right. 

Legislators, freely elected, voted for those laws some of our citizenry are rallying against.  He broke the present law.  He signed legally binding non-disclosure agreement with our government. Potentially the methods used for data copying were also illegal.  Who's optical media was used? His personal or those he stole and from whom.

If he signed non-disclosure agreements with a "silicon valley" tech firm and walked off with "trade secrets" would he be a law breaker or not?   If you don't like our Country's or State or City's laws or how your think parts of the governmental organization operates, change is on you.  Become a Manager.  Become a Legislator.  Change from the inside is often the best longest last positive and effective change.  Change through mob mentality is often in the end, more problematic.
TerryB
75%
25%
TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
5/29/2014 | 1:07:20 PM
Re: Definitely the right thing!
@PacoCW3  People like you are the problem, the ones that like to get led around by the nose by authority and not have to think for themselves. People like you are exactly why a Nazi Germany could eliminate Jews. You were a "criminal" in that country if you tried to help them, that was the law.

Even this country used to say it was OK to have slaves. Being the law and being the right thing to do are two totally different things.

That fact you are still so naive to think this government in US even works anymore shows just how out of touch you are. The entire system is out of control, no one is fixing anything from the inside.

I applaud Snowden for doing what he thought was right. Whether you think it is right is irrelevant, he could care less. Point is, this act was not carried out to improve his personal status in life. No one can make that argument, even closed minded people like yourself. He gave up money, the country where he lives, his family, etc to let Americans know what was going on. None of this was motivated by personal gain for him.

Your comparison to stealing trade secrets in Silicon Valley is ridiculous. If I worked in Silicon Valley with non disclose but found out iPhones were made from stealing babies and turning them into oil, you think my non disclosure would matter? Grow a pair and quit depending on government to think for you. Otherwise you'll be saying "Heil Hitler" again before you know it.
PacoCW3
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PacoCW3,
User Rank: Guru
5/30/2014 | 10:48:23 PM
Re: Definitely the right thing!
First and last, alpha and omega, he knowingly and willingly broke laws.  We citizens elect officials to write laws.  If you don't like the laws written, change the politicians.  I simply suggested people take responsibility for our government, by entering public service.  Change from the inside is generally more permanent than that caused by outside forces.  This is how our country has always worked best, individuals working to better their society, legally.

Attempting to equate government monitoring of communications with the Nazi murder of Jews shows an illogical mind.  Or even impugning I support the Nazi methods, illogical.

Based on this, I doubt your mental clarity and capability, and so your ability to be an effective security professional.  Unfounded knee-jerk statements by anyone working in IA is a liability.  As a IA professional, my primary responsibility to my employer is to minimize their risk exposure, legally.  Interesting, our Constitution allows for all Americans to voice their opinions, you are exercising your voice.  I do not agree with you, Snowden broke the law, he knew what he was doing.  He did commit a crime. 

I think your comment for me to grow a pair, is obnoxious, and ego-centric.  Sir, I grew a pair a while ago.  I've been in uniform for 30+ years, and have put my life on the line in more unpleasant corners of this earth than you've dreamed.  I have walked the walk, and talked the talk.

The United States government is a vast compilation of different organizations deployed across one of the most beautiful countries on our globe, not a single entity with a single point of success or failure.  The bottom line is we do not engage in systematically executing people based on their religion, color, country of origin or sexual preferences.  That was done by the Nazi.  Is still being done by other countries, and you likely buy their products at your local department store.  In effect you are likely supporting their continued pogrom.  Truthfully, as a nation we do try to help the down trodden, and liberate the oppressed.  It is because of this truth, that many, many good men and women, stand guard every night.  So that others like you and me can sleep peacefully.
Robert McDougal
50%
50%
Robert McDougal,
User Rank: Ninja
5/29/2014 | 2:55:59 PM
Re: Definitely the right thing!
You are correct, if I sign a non-disclosure agreement with a company and walk away with trade secrets, I would have broken the law.  However, let me pose a hypothetical situation to you.

Let's say I sign a contract and a NDA with a company to make bootleg Blu-Rays.  Although I signed both a contract and an NDA neither of which are valid since the basis of the business is illegal.  This is referred to as an illegal agreement and is not enforceable in a court.

Translating this example into the Snowden case, if the US government is willfully violating the fourth amendment, the Wiretap act, and several other laws then any contracts signed protecting the existence of the said operation are null and void.

 
Andre Leonard
50%
50%
Andre Leonard,
User Rank: Strategist
5/29/2014 | 12:39:58 PM
Re: Definitely the right thing!
Robert, all your observations are spot-on. Your rational and reasoning ring true for those with an open mind. The truth well told.

There will always be dissenters on this issue of freedom and liberty and those are the ones that got us into this mess. For me and others who believe the governments actions to be egregious. Keep in mind the truth well told is seldom welcome. Many people just cannot handle the truth.  

 

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/government-elections-politics/united-states-of-secrets/how-the-nsas-secret-elite-hacking-unit-works/
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Ninja
5/29/2014 | 3:00:39 PM
Re: Definitely the right thing!
Sorry, also calling BS here. Had he made these revelations in a responsible manner, then stayed around and dealt with the fallout, he'd be a whistleblower. He didn't. He stole data, broke his employment contract, fled the country, and damaged our national security. That makes him a criminal and a traitor. This is not a constitutional issue. It's a rule of law issue.

Oh, and in terms of public sentiment? Most Americans care about the Kardashians and think the Earth is 6,000 years old, too.
Robert McDougal
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50%
Robert McDougal,
User Rank: Ninja
5/29/2014 | 3:42:34 PM
Re: Definitely the right thing!
You mention that Snowden should have made the revelations in a responsible manner.  Unfortunately, that was tried before by three different men.  Those men had their careers ruined and had criminal investigations launched against them.  To me it is no wonder that Snowden choose this route. Former NSA whistleblowers 

I would like to point out as well that the US Constitution is the highest form of law in the land.  The US Constitution is the fundamental law of the land for the United States so I don't understand your comment about this being a rule of law issue not a constitutional issue.

Just so I am clear, do you think one man breaking a contract and stealing company data is a greater crime than the willful violation of the US constitution and a multitude of federal laws?

 
Lorna Garey
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100%
Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Ninja
5/29/2014 | 3:50:12 PM
Re: Definitely the right thing!
Look, I know Snowden and his apologists love to wrap themselves in the constitution. But you have no expectation of privacy in data you turn over to someone else. SCOTUS has clearly said we don't have the same expectation of privacy in, say, our cars that we do at home. So when the NSA comes and kicks down your door and confiscates your metadata, come talk to me.
Robert McDougal
100%
0%
Robert McDougal,
User Rank: Ninja
5/29/2014 | 4:36:11 PM
Re: Definitely the right thing!
Since you do not provide an references yourself I am assuming you are making reference to Smith v. Maryland in regards to the data you willfully hand over to third parties.  This case focused on the phone numbers an individual dialed with the argument being that an individual has no expectation of privacy because they knowingly hand over the phone numbers they dial to the phone company.  I would like to point out that this was a case against an individual who was suspected of a crime, not the public at large.  Therefore, this is not a blank check to view everyone's call records at all times but rather if you are the subject of a crime investigation.

Secondly, other than the phone number I dialed, there are no SCOTUS decisions pertaining to the categorization of other meta data.  For example, I do not willfully hand over my GPS information to my carrier, that information is sent without my interaction and I cannot disable it in many cases.  So I ask you, if I don't willfully hand that data over how is it legal for the NSA to collect it?  What about emails and private chat?  What about encrypted communications?  If I encrypted it wouldn't you think I would expect privacy?

If you have other case law you are referencing in your response I would appreciate links so that I can better understand your side of the debate.

In case you are interested, this article outlines in detail why the NSA data collection program is illegal.
Lorna Garey
33%
67%
Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Ninja
5/29/2014 | 5:00:47 PM
Re: Definitely the right thing!
I'm not a constitutional law expert. However, the gist is that I have standing to challenge a physical search of my person, property, or papers under the Fourth Amendment. I do NOT have standing to challenge a carrier turning over to the government data that I willingly gave the carrier.

When I send a text or make a phone call on my cell, I voluntarily give AT&T metadata -- on when and what number I dialed, from what number, where the devices were located, etc. What the carrier is allowed to do with that data is a matter for Congress, maybe the FCC. I don't get to scream about my constitutional rights if the company does something I don't like with that data. I can stop using my cell phone and switch to a landline, get a burner, or lobby congress to change the law.  

It's common sense that Snowden has helped our enemies. Saying we don't "know for a fact" is either disingenuous or just looking for an argument.
Robert McDougal
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0%
Robert McDougal,
User Rank: Ninja
5/29/2014 | 5:35:55 PM
Re: Definitely the right thing!
Actually, you and everyone in the United States do have the legal standing to challenge a carrier handing your data over to the government.  The ECPA (Electronic Communications Privacy Act) sections 2702 and 2703 prohibit prohibit telephone companies from sharing customer records with the government except in response to specific enumerated circumstances.

Additionally, the PCLOB (Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board) found the NSA bulk data collection program in direct violation of federal law.  I have broken out their conclusion below.
First, the telephone records acquired under the program have no connection to any specific FBI investigation at the time of their collection. Second, because the records are collected in bulk — potentially encompassing all telephone calling records across the nation — they cannot be regarded as "relevant" to any FBI investigation as required by the statute without redefining the word relevant in a manner that is circular, unlimited in scope, and out of step with the case law from analogous legal contexts involving the production of records. Third, the program operates by putting telephone companies under an obligation to furnish new calling records on a daily basis as they are generated (instead of turning over records already in their possession) — an approach lacking foundation in the statute and one that is inconsistent with FISA as a whole. Fourth, the statute permits only the FBI to obtain items for use in its investigations; it does not authorize the NSA to collect anything.

I concede that this information gives the enemies of the United States useful information.  However, when our government treats the average citizen as the enemy as well, the playing field has changed.
JonNLakeland
100%
0%
JonNLakeland,
User Rank: Strategist
5/29/2014 | 10:11:29 PM
Re: Definitely the right thing!
@Robert, your arguments are far more compelling than most. Are you a lawyer in fact or merely well versed in this topic?

To all: I tend towards a belief that it was useful, and bordering on necessary, for Snowden to make PRISM known. I always simply assumed that the gov't could spy on anything we did digitally, especially post-Patriot Act, but having it confirmed moved it definitively out of the realm of conspiracy nuts and into the public eye.

Certainly there have been negative consequences - international faith in our tech companies has plummeted. I can wish that particular circumstance was different, but have to suppose that were the situation *not* this bad, we may well have never ended up having this conversation.
screwbird
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50%
screwbird,
User Rank: Strategist
6/10/2014 | 12:20:54 AM
Re: Definitely the right thing!
how does the ole saw go? if you can't argue the facts argue the law?

you are trying to argue that the outcome of Snowden's actions...which you happen to approve...mitigate the transgressions. not going to fly. he signed an oath. he violated that oath and a multitude of security commitments with KNOWN penalties he agreed to IN ADVANCE of receiving access.

- his actions were pre-meditated

- the "weighting" seems to conveniently miss the fact that he exploited not only his employer/customer....but his teammates as well. the notion that he, in this instance, acted as a beacon of virtue is patently false. 

- what NSA, any other organization or person has done is irrelevant to Snowden's culpability.

we can save for another time discussing the laughable circumstances of where he fled to and ensuing actions. yup...pure as a new-born baby's bottom!!

in the end...what you're really arguing is an ancient meme: the ends justify the means. I'd be careful with that one...it is, perhaps, too flexible a rule to live by.

 

 

 

 

 
DarkReadingTim
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DarkReadingTim,
User Rank: Strategist
5/30/2014 | 7:29:45 AM
Re: Definitely the right thing!
I think that as security professionals, we look at Snowden from two angles: one is our right to privacy as individuals; the other is as stewards of secure data that we know is unique and critical for our organizations.

As an individual, I'm not thrilled about the notion of government agencies monitoring my online activity -- or for that matter, corporations tracking my online habits to present me with more personalized advertising. I should have ways to protect myself from that sort of analysis, and there are some tools for encrypting and/or anonymizing my activity to make it harder for my personal activity to be analyzed.

As someone who has been part of the security professional community for some years, however, I think what worries me most about Snowden is the precedent he sets. He decided, all by himself as a contractor, that certain confidential data about his client should be exposed to the world. His motives may have been noble or moral, but if I'm a security professional, the idea that my organization's most sensitive data might be randomly published by a contractor scares the heck out of me.
Marilyn Cohodas
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50%
Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Strategist
5/30/2014 | 8:03:29 AM
Re: Definitely the right thing! --- ?
After watching the Snowden interview last night and some of the follow up reports on what he did (or did not do) to qualify as a whistleblower, I'm on the fence. Yes, the public is better off knowing the extent of heretofore secret and questionable NSA surveillance programs. But the jury (literally) is still out on whether Snowden's tactics were the best way to force the disclosure. He should come home and offer a full-throated defense that is his right within our legal system.
Lorna Garey
67%
33%
Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Ninja
5/30/2014 | 10:04:39 AM
Re: Definitely the right thing! --- ?
With the caveat that I held a TS clearance for many years, a fact that likely colors my opinion, I consider Edward Snowden a traitor. He seems to have some delusional thinking going on as well ("a real spy"? Seriously?)

We can debate the legal minutia of PRISM all day. We can debate metadata and what level of intrusion happened to US citizens as opposed to foreign nationals. We can debate what amount of privacy we're willing to give up to avoid another 9/11. And certainly that's a conversation worth having. But let's also ackowledge that plenty of people are going to automatically assume that anything the NSA says it its defense, or about what damage Snowden did, is a lie. That's no more realistic than declaring the man a hero. 

To me, the fundamental facts are that he unilaterally decided to steal huge amounts of sensitive data, flee, and then trickle out data in a way that seems mostly concerned with keeping his name in the media spotlight.  
RetiredUser
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100%
RetiredUser,
User Rank: Ninja
5/30/2014 | 9:47:04 AM
Re: Definitely the right thing!
@DarkReadingTim I'm pretty much aligned with your assessment, although I'm cautious about discussing matters like this in the context of polls, as many others also seem to be.

I believe in right and wrong, in our laws, in defending your country, and doing what is the honorable thing to do. It's tough when that honorable thing may be having to do something that is illegal to defend your country in a way that may not have been perceived once as necessary.

This one is going to take time, and introspection. It's not poll material, for that reason.
pdegenkolb941
50%
50%
pdegenkolb941,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/29/2014 | 11:53:32 AM
Snowden is a traitor
Talking Fourth Amendment is not relevant, as the information the NSA is gathering is (to a significant degree) already open.  The metadata on phone calls is already stored by the phone companies, and what the NSA collects is nothing compared to what Google (and many other private companies) collect and sell. (Only the NSA does not sell the data.)  Snowden lied to get his position, then with intent, stole classified and or sensitive information and then released it to a (many) foreign governments.  There is nothing good or proper or enlightened about what he did.


The problem with the NSA spying is not the agency, or the processes they use, it is the elected officials that misuse the information.  For the actions of the elected officials, we have only ourselves to blame.
Robert McDougal
50%
50%
Robert McDougal,
User Rank: Ninja
5/29/2014 | 2:41:00 PM
Re: Snowden is a traitor
I don't follow your logic when it comes to elected officials being the ones that misuse the data collected by the NSA.  I may have missed something but I don't recall seeing a report stating that Congress is utilizing the data collected by the NSA for any purpose.  To the contrary, the NSA will not deny that they are spying on members of congress. Additionally the CIA appears to have been caught manipulating data on the computers used by on elected officials.

Also, just because the phone companies already store the information isn't a valid justification for allowing the government access to the data.  On the contrary, the Wiretap act of 1968 (expanded in 1986 to include electronic communication) prohibits the disclosure of that information.  Additionally, the Wiretap act states that providors (Telcos, etc) are allowed to view this data only if it is in the normal course of their duties and that they "shall not utilize service observing or random monitoring except for mechanical or service quality control checks".

Wiretap Act

 

 
JohnF555
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100%
JohnF555,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/29/2014 | 1:40:55 PM
Not a Whistleblower...
Snowden was not a whistleblower - he's a rat bastard criminal - full stop. What he did was a criminal act - if it was legitimate whistleblowing, way is he hiding (and aiding and abetting) with the Russians? There is more oversight, audit and checking process conducted at NSA than you could possibly imagine...I'd commend this article if you have an interest in knowing the actual state of affairs.

http://www.afr.com/Page/Uuid/b67d7b3e-d570-11e3-90e8-355a30324c5f
Robert McDougal
100%
0%
Robert McDougal,
User Rank: Ninja
5/29/2014 | 3:08:09 PM
Re: Not a Whistleblower...
Obviously you are extremely passionate on this subject, so I have a few questions for you.

In your view, what laws did Snowden break to make him as you so elegantly state a "rat bastard criminal"?

What proof do you have that proves he is aiding and abetting the Russians?

Could you please ellaborate on the extensive oversight, audit and checking process conducted at the NSA?  

Lastly, I appreciate your article yet I don't see how an interview with a former NSA chief is a non-biased source of information.  Could you please clarify why you believe this to be an objective source of information?
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