Where is he? Moscow, Cuba or Ecuador. Nobody knows where Edward Snowden is hiding. The only thing that’s certain is that the information he gave the Guardian changed our perception of what our governments are doing with our digital I. Until now I thought that from the two dystopian novels, it was Huxley’s Brave New World that was more likely to happen rather than Orwell’s 1984. But I’m not so sure any more. Perhaps our future will be a kind of mixture of both.
That governments are able to access all of our data is deeply worrying. Now they say: it is just used to target terrorists. People who want to change the system. Change the free democratic society we live in.
But why don’t we, just for a short time, uncouple this story from an ideological point, uncouple it from the paradigm of “protecting our freedom from terrorism”.
Allowing the government to basically know everything about us, know our feelings, know our friends, know what we search for and know our strengths and weaknesses is very dangerous. It gives a government the massive power of control because this data can be used to blackmail each and every one of us. And governments, democratic or not, will not fear doing this. Actually right now it is already happening with the guy who told us this massive cockup: Edward Snowden.
The United States not only tries every channel to get Snowden back to American soil they also try to make Snowden look bad. “Oh look at this “Hero”. Where is he hiding now? China? Russia? Cuba? Ecuador? Not such democratic countries, are they? That’s what he’s really thinking. He doesn’t share our values. This is just the obvious attempt to destroy Snowden’s reputation. But it goes further. I’m pretty sure that News Stories about this whistleblower are floated by the US Government in back room meetings with journalists. He apparently sneaked into the NSA solely to make these things public. So he planned to be criminal in the first place. He is a bad character. This information was only printed in one single newspaper from Hong Kong (all others are just quoting), so from a journalistic point of view it contradicts the rule to at least have two independent sources. We should know, when reading this, that the US Government has a strong interest to get their interpretation out there. And this is: Snowden is a criminal who broke the law and therefore has to be brought to justice.
The fact is that a free society needs people like Snowden. We need whistleblowers because they inform us about the secret backroom stuff our government is doing. And in a democratic society we can then vote for politicians who promise to change this. Although for example I am unable to do this. So far I don’t know what the BND is doing but until know I don’t have any influence in any country that has such a problematic program (Britain by the way has the bigger one). The United Kingdom is listening to all transatlantic communication from Germany simply because of a relay station of the German cable in Britain. The German government demanded answers from Camerons people but the only answer was (and yes it was that short): “We generally do not comment on it.” This not only a bad way to treat your friends this is actually kind of rude.
These programmes are a more massive threat to our freedom than any terrorist. We have to think: Do we really want overall control for the government for the illusion of security? Or do we want to live with less restrictions and try the conventional way to stop terrorism (Perhaps target the reasons why people are radicalising?). It might lead to more attacks but if you look at the numbers dying in a terrorist attack in the western world is in terms of likeliness in the category of being hit by lightning. The only reason why we fear it more is the media coverage. So let’s stop fear controlling us.