You know that scandal about the National Security Agency's secret surveillance program, something about the government having access to all of our phone records? It definitely sounds creepy, but since it's not as dramatic as Game of Throne's Red Wedding, I get the sense people haven't been paying close attention. However ... maybe more people would pay attention if there were a cute guy involved. May we introduce you to the CIA whistleblower, Edward Snowden?
He looks just like Edward Cullen/Robert Pattinson; that is, if you walk across the room and squint your eyes. Also, he's not a vampire and he does wear glasses. But there's a resemblance, right? Maybe? No?
Because this is the LEAST important aspect of this story, I took an informal poll of the Stir staff. Most gave Snowden a "meh." (That was my vote, too.) But one staffer says, "There's something attractive about him in a geeky sort of way." Another admits he's average in the looks department, but "the fact that he's a whistleblower is totally hot. We need more courageous people like him in the world!" Well, she has a point there.
So with that debate out of the way, let's get into who Snowden is and why he blew that whistle. Edward Snowden revealed himself in an interview with The Guardian in Hong Kong. He is a 29-year-old former CIA technical assistant and current employee of consulting company Booz Allen Hamilton. He was earning $200,000 a year and living in Hawaii with his girlfriend -- but he was willing to give that up to reveal the NSA's surveillance program.
Why? Because he believes in transparency. Because he feels the government keeps grabbing more and more power and no one is stopping them. Because he believes the public should have more say about how much power the government has to watch us and keep information on us.
Since Snowden values transparency, he thought it was important that he reveal his own identity. He realizes that "subverting the power of government" is a "fundamentally dangerous thing to democracy." So he wants to be clear -- he is only revealing information that he feels is in the public's interest. He has enough information that he could shut down the NSA's surveillance program in an afternoon, but he's not going to reveal that information.
Yes, he does believe he could be in danger. He mentions America's "third-party partners" in particular as entities that could go after him eventually. "You can't come forward against the world's most powerful intelligence agencies and be completely free from risk ..." He is seeking asylum in another country.
But that's not Snowden's greatest fear. Snowden's greatest fear is that his revelation will change nothing. He fears our complacency. He worries that as long as we feel more or less safe, we'll let the government keep taking more and more power. And he fears that things will get worse with the next generation and the next.
But we won't stand up and fight to force our reps to take a stand in our interests. It's only going to get worse until eventually there will be a time when policies will change.
And that's why we should be paying attention. Did Snowden risk everything for nothing? That's up to us to decide.
Does it worry you that the U.S. government has this surveillance program?
Image via ABC News