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June 11, 2013

NSA Whistleblower Steps Forward

Watch NSA Contractor Edward Snowden Is Source of Surveillance Leak on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor, came forward yesterday as the whistleblower who revealed the existence of secret government surveillance programs that collect data on millions of Americans’ phone calls and online communications.

Snowden said the public is owed an explanation about what he says is wrongdoing.

“The more you talk about it, the more you are ignored, the more you’re told it’s not a problem, until eventually you realize that these things need to be determined by the public, not by somebody who was simply hired by the government,” he said in a video statement for the Guardian newspaper.

Snowden is currently in Hong Kong seeking asylum from U.S. authorities.

“You can’t come forward against the world’s most powerful intelligence agencies and be completely free from risk, because they’re such powerful adversaries that no one can meaningful oppose them. If they want to get you, they will get you in time,” he said.

Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous Chinese territory, has granted asylum in the past, but also holds an extradition treaty with the U.S., meaning that they may decide to send him back.


“I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge, to even the president if I had a personal e-mail.

It’s getting to the point you don’t have to have done anything wrong. You simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody, even by a wrong call, and then they can use the system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you have ever made,” – Edward Snowden, leaked details of U.S. surveillance.

Warm up questions

1. What is the National Security Agency?

2. Why has the NSA been in the news lately?

3. What is a whistleblower?

Discussion questions

1. Do you think Snowden was right to reveal the NSA data mining operation? Why or why not?

2. How much privacy would you sacrifice in order to stay safe?

3. Why does it matter that the government is collecting communications data on its own citizens?

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