And ultimately we would need to decide each leak on an individual basis.
Civil rights groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation have been documenting the impact of these revelations on civil rights. They have a post on their site on 22 documented cases on the impact of the NSA spying on the right to association. You can be sure, the EFF didn't have to dig that hard to find them either.
And it's not just people worried about civil liberties; the Internet companies that had their security compromised are upset too. In fact, according to an article on Forbes.com, the country's biggest tech companies, including Apple, Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Facebook and AOL, sent letters to the House and Senate Judiciary committees demanding some reform.
Internet engineers are upset as well, because the NSA is compromising the integrity of the Internet. And let's not forget that the Internet is a major economic engine, not one you want to risk for any reason. According to an article on MIT Technology Review, Internet engineers have been banding together to find ways to build additional security into the Internet backbone that would make this type of spying much more challenging for the government and anyone else who wants to intercept data. As currently constructed, there are just too many places where it's too easy to tap into data as it moves through the Internet pipes.
Prior to Snowden's disclosures, there were those among us who had suspicions about what the government was doing, but how paranoid would you have had to be to imagine the depth of spying going on right here at home on data belonging to U.S. citizens? That is what is outrageous. Spying on people from other countries is, after all, the NSA's job, but systematically and routinely sucking up the communications of U.S. citizens should raise the ire of us all.
We know all of this only because Snowden took those documents, just as, a generation ago, we found out about the extent of government lying in Vietnam only because Daniel Ellsburg had the courage to take a similar step when he released the documents that became known as the Pentagon Papers.
I'm sure that the people in the government who want to punish Snowden are driven mainly by the great humiliation they feel as a result of these revelations. But if you analyze what he's done, you realize that he has not threatened any lives or given away any state secrets that compromise the security of the U.S. All he has done is shared information with us that we as citizens have a right to know.
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