The PRISM programme has people up in arms, concerned about their privacy and security in the online world. Eihab Boraie explains just what's going on and suggests that this could be the darkest moment for Obama's administration...
It’s difficult to say just when this story starts. Does it begin when people suspected that someone, somewhere was watching them? Does it start when George Orwell wrote 1984 establishing the concept of Big Brother?
For all intents and purposes, let’s just say the shit hit the fan for the NSA when a contract computer technician, Edward Snowden, broke the PRISM story in The Guardian and the Washington Post and then fled to Hong Kong to avoid extradition to the U.S. Smart move considering that the Obama administration has been doing well on cracking down on whistleblowers.
So what is PRISM? The PRISM programme was designed to collect internet material including search history, the contents of emails, file transfers and live chat logs of just about everyone on the internet. Conspiracy theorists everywhere are rejoicing as their suspicions were confirmed. As for the ignorant masses, this should be quite the astonishing disclosure. This revelation may be a game-changer in what internet users feel comfortable with saying and sharing with others online, for fear of possible detainment.
The idea that the U.S government has been exercising this kind of surveillance on people even outside the U.S has got everybody and their mothers pissed. Both German and Chinese governments have demanded an official explanation.
In Germany yesterday, Obama tried to quell the anger by reassuring people and insisting that the programme is transparent and that he is adamant that lives have been saved. He also stated:
“We are not rifling through the emails of German citizens or American citizens or French citizens or anyone else. This is a circumscribed, narrow system being aimed to protect us and our people… The encroachment on privacy has been strictly limited.”
As for Edward Snowden, when reached for a statement via online chat, he had this to say:
"The US government, just as they did with other whistleblowers, immediately and predictably destroyed any possibility of a fair trial at home, openly declaring me guilty of treason,"
Dick Cheney and other influential members of the US Congress have accused him of betraying his country. Calls for his extradition on charges of treason are growing, but haven’t been formerly filed. Outreaching to his aid is Julian Assange, founder of Wikipedia, who is currently trying to get him asylum in Iceland.
On Wednesday, NSA Director General Keith Alexander told Congress that 50 attacks were thwarted since 2001 using the programme. Seems a little excessive considering just how much the US government loves taking credit for thwarted terrorist attacks. Perhaps they should clarify just how many attacks were stopped by and PRISM and just how many were stopped using torture. Get your story straight NSA.
This is a scandal that won’t be going away and will definitely leave a stain on the Obama legacy. Maybe not as bad as Gitmo or Drones, but this will always be remembered as the time when Orwell’s Big Brother jumped out of fiction and into reality.