Loss of Privacy

Keeping you informed on recent losses to privacy and civil rights worldwide.

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Edward Snowden speaks about privacy and technology with the ACLU’s Ben Wizner and Christopher Soghoian at SXSW Interactive.

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Tom the Dancing Bug

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The appeal is obvious, especially for cash-strapped, high-crime cities such as Oakland, Calif. City leaders there say they simply don’t have the tax base to pay for the number of police officers they need, so they’ve looked toward “domain awareness” as a kind of force multiplier.

For the past couple of years, the city of Oakland has worked with the Port of Oakland to build its own version of the system. It’s called the Domain Awareness Center, or DAC. The federal government is paying for it with Homeland Security grants. But as the project grew, so did opposition.

After last summer’s revelations of domestic spying by the National Security Agency, protesters started showing up en masse at Oakland City Council meetings. One signed in for the public comment period as “Edward Snowden”; another stood up to videorecord the council while supporters cheered and jeered. In November, protesters became so raucous, they forced the council to clear the hall.

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Is Edward Snowden a hero for revealing government wrongdoing, or a traitor for leaking classified information? “I don’t think anybody acts and says to themselves, ‘What I’m doing is immoral, but I’m going to do it.’ People always rationalize,” according to former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow. Correspondent Lucky Severson reports on the debate over the morality of Snowden’s actions.

Selected quotes from the transcript:

EDWARD SNOWDEN: I’m just another guy who sits there day to day in the office and watches what’s happening and goes, “This is something that’s not our place to decide. The public needs to decide whether these programs or policies are right or wrong.”

THOMAS DRAKE: I went through every chain of command that existed, including internal inspector general.

SEVERSON: Snowden has said that he skipped the country because he saw what happened to whistleblower Thomas Drake. Drake was an NSA senior analyst who went to the Baltimore Sun only after he had gone up the chain of command to complain about a billion-dollar spy program that was later abandoned.

DRAKE: I was put under severe duress. I was surveilled physically and electronically. I was threatened. At one point the chief prosecutor, in April of 2008, said, “How would you like to spend the rest of your life in prison, Mr. Drake, unless you cooperate with our investigation?” And so they came after me with everything they had.

JESSEYLN RADACK: I mean, when you are a whistleblower, you are extremely isolated. The government called me a traitor and a turncoat and a terrorist sympathizer in the New York Times, and that makes you pretty radioactive.

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Freedom and democracy are said to be guarantees of human rights, but as the NSA spying scandal and the Arab Spring recently showed, that isn’t always the case. Are all people inherently qualified for freedom and democracy? What happens when it’s thrust upon them before they are ready? And what does it mean to be free? Oksana Boyko is joined by the founder of the Free Software Foundation, Richard Stallman, to discuss these issues.

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