I've been thinking of Edward Snowden as the anti-CISO. Chief information security officers usually make the case to their boards for more invasive monitoring, tighter policies and more budget. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who absconded with an untold amount of the NSA's data, has been making the reverse argument, to the entire nation.
He seems to be trying to prove that U.S. surveillance policy expends too much money for not enough return. Hardly haphazard, his disclosures have a method. If I am correct, they are being carefully orchestrated to build the case for less monitoring and looser policies. If this hypothesis is in the ballpark, then we should be able to predict the next round of disclosures from Snowden and his journalist proxies.
If you have been too busy to follow closely what exactly Snowden has and hasn't released or the timing of his actions, let me reconstruct the history for you, presented as a series of arguments Snowden is employing to make his case.
Argument No. 1: The U.S. government harvests Americans' phone records
Snowden was patient, waiting for a good moment to begin his disclosures. He spent years accumulating his evidence, and he has said that he contemplated leaking it back in 2008, only to decide to give the newly elected president, Barack Obama, an opportunity to change the course of the U.S. security apparatus. When that didn't happen, he still waited for what he saw as the right moment, which arrived in May 2013.
Americans have always expected that as long as we aren't involved in any criminal activity, our phone records will be private. That faith was shaken in May.
* AP records. On May 13, the Associated Press broke the story that the U.S. Department of Justice had secretly gathered from phone companies two months of the news service's phone records. The AP had become aware of this on May 10, when it received a letter from the Justice Department notifying it of the action. Just one week later, Snowden was on a plane from Hawaii to Hong Kong with a laptop full of NSA files he'd downloaded in previous years.
Verizon records. Snowden's timing for his first revelation seems designed to capitalize on the media frenzy. On June 6, as the AP controversy was still swirling in Washington, the U.S. online property of the British newspaper The Guardian broke the first Snowden story. Anonymously sourced, it claimed that an Obama administration-initiated court order on April 25, 2013, had forced Verizon to turn over to the U.S. government the daily telephone metadata of its millions of its mostly American customers.
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