NSA Spying: Just the Basics


Edward Snowden, a former worker for the CIA and NSA, has leaked top secret government documents that seem to show that the US government collects large swaths of electronic data of its citizens, including data about phone calls, emails, Internet usage, etc. He is now hiding in Hong Kong.

Read the original exclusive from The Guardian on how the government has been secret collecting data about the phone calls of Verizon users.

Watch a MSNBC discussion with Glenn Greenwald, the reporter who broke the leak story. In it, someone defending the government argued: “This is not wrongdoing. This is official US policy.” (Apparently for him, official US policy = good.)

The Guardian tells the story of the whistleblower, Edward Snowden. A few highlights from the story (though reading the whole thing is recommended):

From the moment he decided to disclose numerous top-secret documents to the public, he was determined not to opt for the protection of anonymity. “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” he said.


In a note accompanying the first set of documents he provided, he wrote: “I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions,” but “I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant.”


He is deeply worried about being spied on. He lines the door of his hotel room with pillows to prevent eavesdropping. He puts a large red hood over his head and laptop when entering his passwords to prevent any hidden cameras from detecting them.

Though that may sound like paranoia to some, Snowden has good reason for such fears. He worked in the US intelligence world for almost a decade. He knows that the biggest and most secretive surveillance organisation in America, the NSA, along with the most powerful government on the planet, is looking for him.


“All my options are bad,” he said. The US could begin extradition proceedings against him, a potentially problematic, lengthy and unpredictable course for Washington. Or the Chinese government might whisk him away for questioning, viewing him as a useful source of information. Or he might end up being grabbed and bundled into a plane bound for US territory.

“Yes, I could be rendered by the CIA. I could have people come after me. Or any of the third-party partners. They work closely with a number of other nations. Or they could pay off the Triads. Any of their agents or assets,” he said.


He described as formative an incident in which he claimed CIA operatives were attempting to recruit a Swiss banker to obtain secret banking information. Snowden said they achieved this by purposely getting the banker drunk and encouraging him to drive home in his car. When the banker was arrested for drunk driving, the undercover agent seeking to befriend him offered to help, and a bond was formed that led to successful recruitment.

“Much of what I saw in Geneva really disillusioned me about how my government functions and what its impact is in the world,” he says. “I realised that I was part of something that was doing far more harm than good.”

An interview with Snowden:

Below is apparently a picture of the NSA’s Utah Data Center where it either does or plans to store the huge amounts of data the NSA retrieves.


About it, Patheos blogger Tom MacDonald on his blog God and the Machine writes:

It’s part of a unimaginably large network of data farms capable of sifting data on the scale of yottabytes, occupying over a million square feet (including 100,000 square feet just for computers), requiring 65 megawats of power and consuming 1.5 million gallons of water daily just to cool it.

The Washington Post has put together a timeline of how surveillance has changed since 9/11.

Soon after the initial leak, President Obama held a press conference in which he assured the public that “nobody is listening to your telephone calls” – a strange reassurance since that hadn’t been one of the primary accusations:

Other articles

Support Second Nature

Second Nature depends on the generous donations of readers like you.

Second Nature is published by the International Institute for the Study of Technology and Christianity (IISTC), a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to studying technology in light of the Christian tradition.

Your generous contributions make this work possible. Please consider donating today to help us continue this important work.

About the Contributor

Second Nature Editors

Second Nature is an online journal for critical thinking about technology and new media in light of the Christian tradition. 

Speak Your Mind


Support Second Nature

If you find value in the work we do at Second Nature, please consider making a modest donation. Every donation, no matter how small, is a huge encouragement to us in our work.