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Whistleblowers Oppose Tyranny

WASHINGTON – Edward Snowden, working for  the United States National Security Agency (NSA), exposed a massive surveillance operation run by the US government, going by the name of PRISM, which tracks, records and analyzes Internet traffic of ordinary citizens in popular services such as Facebook, Google and Yahoo. Before leaking documents detailing the system to the newspaper The Guardian, Snowden traveled to Hong Kong in order to protect himself from facing prosecution; he remains in Hong Kong with plans to seek political asylum in Iceland.The US government's PRISM program breaches the privacy of basically every Internet user on the globe and is a more potent and omnipresent version of the state surveillance system that was in place for example in the former East Germany, which was largely condemned by the Western world. Moreover, during the Arab Spring the regimes in the Middle East employed widespread surveillance of its citizens in order to quell and disrupt the demonstrations, while the US supported the calls for democracy; the emergence of PRISM is thus seen by human rights activists as a US double standard.

Snowden's disclosure has already led to other countries revealing programs similar to PRISM, and he joins the  ranks of people before him who have risked their own lives, their freedom and their future in order to expose governmental programs and actions that breach basic human rights and individual privacy. One of the best-known cases is that of Wikileaks, whose founder Julian Assange published thousands of confidential diplomatic cables, and he has since faced the threat of deportation for trial. US soldier Bradley Manning helped Wikileaks publish thousands of classified documents on the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, exposing war crimes and human rights abuses committed by the US and their contractors, such as the Apache helicopter attack in Iraq on unarmed civilians and two Reuters journalists. He, too, now faces trial for a number of charges on espionage.

In 1971, whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971 to expose the true senselessness Vietnam War and to reveal that the government had been lying about it to the public, helping to bring an end to the protracted conflict. Ellsberg commented to CNN that Snowden had done an immense service to his country through the leak; the path towards  the world becoming an Orwellian surveillance state might still be altered. In the end, any state surveillance system in a democratic society should have the legitimacy awarded by its citizens, or else it should be stopped immediately. As Edward Snowden said, "The public needs to decide whether these programs and policies are right or wrong."
TIME Magazine aptly commented on these modern whistleblowers, "Just as antiwar protesters of the Vietnam era argued that peace, not war, was the natural state of man, this new breed of radical technophiles believes that transparency and personal privacy are the foundations of a free society. Secrecy and surveillance, therefore, are gateways to tyranny."

We invite you to watch the following trailers on the topic of confidential leaks and state surveillance:

  • THE MOST DANGEROUS MAN IN AMERICA by Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith is the story of what happens when a former Pentagon insider, armed only with his conscience, steadfast determination, and a file cabinet full of classified documents, decides to challenge an "Imperial" Presidency – answerable to neither Congress, the press, nor the people-in order to help end the Vietnam War.
  • WE STEAL SECRETS: THE STORY OF WIKILEAKS by Alex Gibney is a 2013 American independent documentary film about the organization started by Julian Assange, and people involved in the collection and distribution of secret information and media by whistleblowers.
  • THE LIVES OF OTHERS by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck is a drama film about the monitoring of East Berlin by agents of the Stasi, the GDR's secret police.



"The Most Dangerous Man in America" by Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith

"We Steal Secrets - The Story of Wikileaks" by Alex Gibney

"The Lives of Others" by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck