Sep 2013 12

What We’ve Learned About The NSA From Snowden Leaks

Posted by Jay Banks

Some consider him a hero; others, a traitor. The case of former CIA and National Security Administration (NSA) employee Edward Snowden has attracted lots of attention around the world and divided people into two groups. According to a survey conducted by Abacus Data, 60 per cent of polled Canadians consider Edward Snowden a whistleblower and side with him, while 15 per cent recognize him as a traitor for releasing data when he worked with the National Security Agency.

National Security Agency Operations Center Floor National Security Agency Operations Center Floor by Wikimedia Commons

The case of Edward Snowden has started numerous discussions on the government monitoring activity of citizens and on terrorism. According to the Abacus Data survey,

A majority of Canadians believe that it is more important for the federal government to investigate possible terrorist threats, even if that intrudes on personal privacy, than for the government to not intrude on personal privacy.


Moreover, Canada has officially joined the countries that criticize Russia for granting temporary asylum to Edward Snowden. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird remarked that Canada would have acted differently and would not have offered Snowden political sanctuary. Canadian security programs are close to the United States' in terms of national defence. As the Globe and Mail informed in June, Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay said yes to a program similar to the NSA surveillance called Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) in 2011, a program whose purpose is to track the metadata of electronic communication.

Edward Snowden by Wikimedia Commons Edward Snowden by Wikimedia Commons

CSEC has two main aims: to monitor electronic communication emanating from abroad and to protect domestic electronic information and communication. The agency is collecting metadata, information about the digital envelope that carries specific correspondences. This could include phone numbers, the length and time of the calls, email addresses, and Internet routing information. However, it does not include the substance of the communications itself.

As we can see, the Snowden case has started a wave of questions and debates about governments' secret defence initiatives. The amount of information that Snowden revealed is enormous, and so is the impact of his case. Andy Greenberg, a technology, privacy, and information security reporter, explained in an article for Forbes what the Snowden leaks taught us about the NSA.

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