Edward Snowden gave up his life in Hawaii to leak documents pertaining to America’s vast spying program, thereby igniting a firestorm of news stories pertaining to international security. Y’see, the NSA has been spying on literally everyone in the world since the early 2000s, thanks to multiple passings of the Draconian legislature known as The Patriot Act, and this in turn has led many in the security community to go, “Hey, hang on a minute. You can’t just spy on everyone and get away with it.” Enter former NSA contractor Snowden, who leaked hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks and independent journalist Glenn Greenwald. In those documents, revelations such as the NSA directly tapping into German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone were made into international news, because, well, it’s super f*cking rude to phone tap your friends.
Late yesterday, Snowden wrote a letter to Merkel. Here it is in its entirety:
To whom it may concern,
I have been invited to write to you regarding your investigation of mass surveillance.
I am Edward Joseph Snowden, formerly employed through contracts or direct hire as a technical expert for the United States National Security Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, and Defense Intelligence Agency.
In the course of my service to these organizations, I believe I witnessed systemic violations of law by my government that created a moral duty to act. As a result of reporting these concerns, I have face a severe and sustained campaign of persecution that forced me from my family and home. I am currently living in exile under a grant of temporary asylum in the Russian Federation in accordance with international law.
I am heartened by the response to my act of political expression, in both the United States and beyond. Citizens around the world as well as high officials – including in the United States – have judged the revelation of an unaccountable system of pervasive surveillance to be a public service. These spying revelations have resulted in the proposal of many new laws and policies to address formerly concealed abuses of the public trust. The benefits to society of this growing knowledge are becoming increasingly clear at the same time claimed risks are being shown to have been mitigated.
Though the outcome of my efforts has been demonstrably positive, my government continues to treat dissent as defection, and seeks to criminalize political speech with felony charges that provide no defense. However, speaking the truth is not a crime. I am confident that with the support of the international community, the government of the United States will abandon this harmful behavior. I hope that when the difficulties of this humanitarian situation have been resolved, I will be able to cooperate in the responsible finding of fact regarding reports in the media, particularly in regard to the truth and authenticity of documents, as appropriate and in accordance with the law.
I look forward to speaking with you in your country when the situation is resolved, and thank you for your efforts in upholding the international laws that protect us all.
With my best regards,
31 October 2013
Snowden is reportedly trying to gain political asylum in Germany, although he’d have to be physically on German soil in order to do so. Snowden’s U.S. passport has been officially revoked, leaving him quite literally a man without a country, given that his asylum in Russia is “only temporary.”
The situation certainly is tense, and is developing. Some are even saying that Snowden’s revelations have changed the entire way the Internet has been structured, after Brazil and Germany have publicly toyed with the idea of running internal countrywide systems as opposed to the international ones that have been in place for the last two decades.
If Snowden does choose asylum in another country, it may have to be sooner rather than later: the clock is ticking on his stay in Russia, and physically getting him to Germany — and then the legal acrobatics required to give him asylum — may prove too difficult for even the world’s most notorious whistleblower.