This is a series written for the offline-born. It tries to bridge the gap between what Mainstream Media has said about the NSA scandal, and the more technical and terse explanations found online. Today’s topic addresses the question: why did Edward Snowden go to Russia? Why didn’t he go to some democracy in Europe? Hopefully, Diane Feinstein can find answers to all her questions here. The Senator has been sounding confused and misinformed on MSM TV interviews.
When you make a phone call, or send an email, you know the data doesn’t travel the most direct route to its destination, right? The data gets broken up into digital packets, that begin with a header address, and travel at the speed of light, through whichever “pipeline” is probabilistically available at the split-second, until they arrive at their destination address. These pipelines, which we know as the fiber-optic cables and satellite hops of the voice-digital network, don’t know where the boundaries of nations are. Nobody tells them to stop at the border of a country and get their passports stamped. Think of it like plumbing. Water is going to go wherever the force of gravity pulls it, in whichever places it can get. Electronic pixels do that, too. So there your conversation is, traveling the air waves or the fiber-optic cables, waiting until its header matches a destination, so it can stop running. These networks are world-wide, of course. We are all on the Internet, everywhere.
When your header address whips on by an NSA node, it photographs it. Now a complete copy is stored, fiber-optically, or linked for retrieval if needed. (This explanation is not fully technically accurate, but the purpose of this explanation is to draw a picture that Mom and Dad Normal can relate to.)
Okay, well, you didn’t think the NSA nodes for the Big Database are just located in the U.S.A, did you? Phone and Internet traffic flashes around all over the world, through satellites and through cables under the ocean. When the Big Network was built, from which the Big Database draws its information, it was built with the cooperation of many countries. Those co-operating countries drew up agreements about said cooperation. The NATO allies, for example, agreed on how to share information. Where was that information? It was on the voice-data network.
So one agreement was called Five Eyes.The Five Eyes were Britain, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and the U.S.A. Separate agreements were made with other allies. Why not? Information was needed, and it traveled across borders. No, I do not believe that Angela Merkel learned about Germany’s cooperation with the U.S. from reading the Guardian. So when Edward Snowden selected a place to run, could he select any of the democratic allies who were all complicit in the spying? Hardly.How could he expect his request for refugee status to be received in a country that was involved? So he selected a country where he thought bureaucracy would prevail long enough for him to get a more permanent arrangement. He needed a place that was hostile enough toward the U.S. that they would not turn him over immediately, and where he thought he could stay until his asylum was approved somewhere. His choice was Hong Kong.
Now, Mainstream Media has focused the story, when they mention it at all, on the escapades thereafter, when Wikileaks sent an attorney to help him, he ran to Moscow, and got stranded in the airport. He was stranded in the airport because the U.S.A. declared him a spy, and went so far as to down the Presidential plane of the President of Bolivia, in a spectacular act of war against a sovereign nation. Thanks to great investigative journalism like Dirty Wars, by Jeremy Scahill, we now know that the U.S. has a “kill” list of people it will assassinate. Given the incident with the Bolivian President, Snowden realized he wasn’t safe getting on a plane. (Oh, you didn’t hear about that? The President of Bolivia went to Moscow for a conference, and on his way home, the United States of America leaned on European countries to prevent his plane from landing to refuel. He was forced to land and have his plane searched. How’s that for an Act of War?) Snowden, who was not on the Bolivian plane, therefore became stuck in the Moscow airport and decided his best bet was to ask for safety in Russia. He didn’t choose Russia. The U.S.A. trapped him there.
What Snowden decided to do after he released the information to the American public, that’s fascinating reading, but it isn’t the substance of the story. The substance is that American citizens are now living in a police state. That’s the substance. Whether Snowden was a spy or a whistleblower, whether he was a system administrator or a hacker, whether he was honest or evil . . . that is fun to know, but it is not important. Not important to Mom and Dad Normal, who have suddenly been told that they are now living in a country that looks more like a police state than it looks like the America they learned in eighth grade civics class.
I honestly don’t care if Snowden was a spy. I’ll never know the truth about that. He did a service to America, by telling its citizens what its government was doing behind their backs. He and Bradley Manning have given American voters the power to stop this train. America was on the brink of the point of no return. We didn’t know our freedoms were so far gone. But now we know, thanks to these two young men, and the courage of WikiLeaks and The Guardian. Decades ago, the New York Times had that courage, when it published The Pentagon Papers and blew open the information about the Vietnam War.
I don’t care what their motives were. The results are: we now can do something about a very bad, bad problem. Each of us is a single raindrop, but when we all gather in the same spot, we have the power of a flood. That is what the forces behind this surveillance system know and understand. That is why they wanted it kept secret. Revelation of this database harmed “national interests?” Not unless national interests are aligned against the citizens of the United States.
It is You, Mom and Dad Normal, who have the power to turn this Surveillance State around, and explain to your Congressmen and Senators, that YOU don’t want it to happen. It doesn’t make you safer. It only makes you Prey. So pray, pray, pray that the secret database doesn’t begin feeding the secret police, but between your prayers, use the phone network of the prayer tree to get those Congressional representatives attention and tell them to end NSA Surveillance of Americans NOW.