There have been some developments in the Edward Snowden saga.
On Tuesday, it was announced by Russian officials that Snowden had agreed to asylum in Venezuela. Snowden has been holed up in the transit zone of the Moscow airport in Russia.
This followed the release on Monday of the second part of Glenn Greenwald's interview with former NSA contractor Edward Snowden by the Guardian, in which the U.S. whistle blower presented more classified information, as well as gave hints as to why he leaked the PRISM infromation in the first place.
The U.S. whistleblower has been picky about which country he accepts asylum from. Just last week, Snowden withdrew his asylum bid in Russia because that country demanded he "stop hurting the U.S." Snowden had applied for asylum in a number of countries in Europe and Latin America.
The newest Guardian interview provides some insight into his general motives and shows his nostalgia for the privacy of communication he enjoyed in his youth, fleshing out the shadowy image we have of Snowden.
Online debates about Snowden's exposure have been chaotic and diverse. It's become apparent that intelligent conversations need to take place regarding the design of new laws, citizen's rights, and the barriers to privacy in our digital age.
Hero or opportunist, Snowden is clearly acting on strong beliefs – and at great risk to himself. Moreover, his disclosures demonstrate that a surprisingly large number of soldiers, agents, and contractors have access to a wealth of private information about citizens. Who are these people? What if they want to stalk ex-lovers, blackmail personal targets, or otherwise abuse their access? Is there a system in place to punish them?
Many would like to put their trust in the secret court's issuance of warrants, but with no civilian oversight, scrutiny, or accountability, it's hard to know how frivolously they may be rubber-stamping requests at the NSA's behest.
It's not simply an issue of amassing faceless metadata from millions of people. It's about being able to target anyone – including those who may wish to organize the next Occupy Wall Street – allowing the government to reign in opposition leadership before they can affect the status quo.
The FBI has certainly gotten their hands dirty with misinformation in the past. Watergate and Iran-Contra are further proof that absolute, unaccountable power should not exist in the shadows. The degree of secrecy necessary to protect us is very much open to debate. While Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Twitter, and Facebook scramble to assure customers that their information is being protected appropriately, people are starting to wake up to the idea that their online lives may have real-world consequences.