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NSA Overreach

Why You Should Worry

You don’t care about the NSA’s spying program, you say? You think it’s fighting terrorism? It’s also ripe for abuse and mission creep—and surrounded by an incredible amount of secrecy.

Odds are you aren't upset about the news that the National Security Agency has been collecting phone data from millions of Americans. A majority of Americans--56 percent, according to Pew--don't have a problem with it. Civil libertarians are outraged, but elsewhere the news was met with a collective yawn. On Twitter, people joked about the poor NSA agent who has to monitor their boring lives or wondered who could be so naïve as to believe the government wasn’t spying on them. More nuanced skeptics pointed out that the NSA isn’t listening in on our phone calls and that when it does look at the content of conversations, it’s only those of foreigners—or that the whole program is completely legal. That’s all true, but you should still be worried.


National Security Agency building in Fort Meade, Maryland. (Charles Dharapak/AP)


Hot for Edward Snowden

For some, the NSA leaker is a narcissistic traitor. For others, he’s a sexy nerd with an irresistible rebel swagger. Lizzie Crocker on the Team Snowden fan club.

Thanks to a 12-minute video interview with The Guardian, the world has finally gotten a good look at Edward Snowden, the former CIA employee who leaked major national security secrets—and they like what they see.

“I know this is far beyond the point and making light of the situation, but Edward Snowden can blow my whistle,” one particularly ribald Twitter user proclaimed.  (#ifyouknowwhatimean) 

Did Edward Snowden help his country—or betray it? We asked, and you answered. See the results.

Is Edward Snowden, who leaked the NSA documents, a hero or a traitor?

In the wake of revelations about the extent of the NSA’s surveillance program, we polled our readers Monday on The Daily Beast to see what they think about Edward Snowden, the contractor who has acknowledged leaking the data.

NSA Trolling

There’s No Story Here

‘Troll the NSA’ aims to overwhelm the spy group with emails filled with ‘keywords of terror.’ The guys behind it work at BuzzFeed, and tell Eliza Shapiro they hope the NSA is listening.

A stunt to jam up the National Security Agency’s servers got its start in the offices of two BuzzFeed employees.

Chris Baker and Mike Lacher, creative directors at the news site, say they hope millions of people will send a seemingly mundane email about a bad job and travel plans to their friends at exactly 7 p.m. on Wednesday. The catch: the script, which they wrote together, is filled with words that could pique the NSA’s interest – including “bomb,” “ricin,” “radicalized,” “true believers,” and “flight school.”


The NSA’s Secret Cops

The top-secret ‘Q Group’ has been chasing Edward Snowden since he disappeared in May. Eli Lake on the intel community’s internal police—and why the agency is in ‘complete freakout mode.’

Even before last week’s revelations by The Guardian newspaper that the National Security Agency (NSA) was collecting call records from telecommunications companies and had the ability to mine user data from major U.S. Internet companies, the NSA was already on the trail of the leaker, according to two former U.S. intelligence officers with close ties to the agency.


Edward Snowden’s (inset) disappearance in May was immediately noticed by the NSA. (Patrick Semansky/AP; inset: Getty)


Ellsberg: Snowden Is a Hero

Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, says that the machinery of our democratic government is broken—and we need whistleblowers like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden to inspire Americans to fight back against this invasion of privacy.

I’m just back home from the first day of the Bradley Manning trial, and a rally for him on Saturday. I think there has not been a more significant or helpful leak or unauthorized disclosure in American history ever than what Edward Snowden shared with the Guardian about the NSA—and that definitely includes the Pentagon Papers.

Edward Snowden Is a Hero and We Need More Whistleblowers

Clockwise from top left: Edward Snowden, Daniel Ellsberg, and Bradley Manning. (Clockwise from topleft: Getty; AP (2))

Stop Spying

We’re Over It

Obama was right: Americans are sick of the war on terror. We aren’t terrified anymore, and we’re no longer willing to sacrifice our freedoms. That’s why a left-right alliance is denouncing Obama’s spy program.

Last month, President Obama was slammed for declaring, “This war [on terror], like all wars, must end.” Now he’s being slammed because it’s still going on.

Obama National Security

Patrick Semansky/AP

Leaker Love

The Snowden Fan Club

He’s another Ellsberg. He’s an ‘American patriot.’ Journalists and activists are already in love with the NSA leaker. But Michael Moynihan says we should resist the instant deification.

It was an immediate online beatification. On Twitter and in the insta-columns produced immediately after he disclosed his identity, Edward Snowden, the Booz Allen Hamilton employee who acknowledged leaking top-secret NSA documents to journalists from The Washington Post and Guardian newspapers, was declared an “American patriot.” He was favorably compared to WikiLeaker Bradley Manning and Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, while The Guardian proclaimed that Snowden “will go down in history as one of America’s most consequential whistleblowers.” There were scattered moments of skepticism, but they were vastly outweighed by drippy encomiums.


Edward Snowden during an interview with ‘The Guardian’ in Hong Kong. (The Guardian via Getty)

Civil Liberties

The Leaker and the Right

Conservatives may lionize Edward Snowden now, says Michael Tomasky, but ultimately his actions are going to tear apart the GOP.

Here’s something I’ll certainly be keeping one eye fixed on as the Edward Snowden story advances: the degree to which the American right takes him up as a cause célèbre. They’re up a tree either way. If they do, then they’re obviously guilty of the rankest hypocrisy imaginable, because we all know that if Snowden had come forward during George W. Bush’s presidency, the right-wing media would by now have sniffed out every unsavory fact about his life (and a hefty mountain of fiction) in an effort to tar him. If they don’t, then they’ve lost an opportunity to sully Barack Obama. Since they like smearing Obama a lot more than they care about hypocrisy, my guess is that they will lionize him, as some already are. But in the long run, doing that will only expose how deep the rifts are between the national-security right and the libertarian right, and this issue will only extend and intensify those disagreements.


Glenn Beck and Rand Paul. (Getty)

On the Run

Snowden Left Hawaii Home

Snowden Left Hawaii Home via

Ahead of revealing NSA spying program.

Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old former NSA and CIA employee who on Sunday revealed himself as the whistleblower behind the leak of a massive, secret NSA surveillance program, moved out of his home in Honolulu, Hawaii, on May 1, leaving nothing behind. Snowden told his employer he was leaving for two weeks for epilepsy treatment when he fled for Hong Kong ahead of the revelations about the spying program. Other details to trickle out since Snowden outed himself Sunday: someone with his name donated $500 to Ron Paul's 2012 presidential campaign and may have an account on Reddit. 

Read it at the Associated Press

He's Changed

How the President Made Friends With Big Brother

The Evolution of Barack Obama

The Evolution of Barack Obama

The president has evolved from ardent civil libertarian to surveillance hardliner. With liberals outraged by the Verizon court order, Daniel Klaidman and Eli Lake chart the change.

'Nobody Is Listening to Your Telephone Calls'

After a brief speech on Obamacare Friday, the president was asked about the NSA secretly obtaining Americans' personal information (spying?). Didn't catch his lengthy, wide-ranging response? Here are the important bits, boiled down to a very manageable 129 seconds.

Your Guide

NSA Surveillance Explained

Behind the NSA Spying Program

Behind the NSA Spying Program

Caitlin Dickson on how far it’s gone, who’s involved—and how Obama just defended it at a press conference.

Reader Poll

Do You Care That the NSA Is Spying on You?


Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

We Hear You

Verizon: Happy to Help!


What Spies Read For Fun