RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment

Snowden writes: "Technology has been a liberating force in our lives. It allows us to create and share the experiences that make us human, effortlessly. But in secret, our very own government - one bound by the Constitution and its Bill of Rights - has reverse-engineered something beautiful into a tool of mass surveillance and oppression."

Portrait detail of Edward Snowden. (photo: Robert Shetterly/
Portrait detail of Edward Snowden. (photo: Robert Shetterly/

How the National Security State Kills a Free Society

By Edward Snowden, American Civil Liberties Union

07 June 14


Below is an email ACLU supporters received from Edward Snowden Thursday, one year to the day since The Guardian broke the first in a series of revelations exposing the breathtaking scope of U.S. government surveillance. Click here for a new video documenting the incredible events of the last year, along with a timeline and the ACLU’s guide to privacy reform.

t's been one year.

Technology has been a liberating force in our lives. It allows us to create and share the experiences that make us human, effortlessly. But in secret, our very own government -- one bound by the Constitution and its Bill of Rights -- has reverse-engineered something beautiful into a tool of mass surveillance and oppression. The government right now can easily monitor whom you call, whom you associate with, what you read, what you buy, and where you go online and offline, and they do it to all of us, all the time.

Today, our most intimate private records are being indiscriminately seized in secret, without regard for whether we are actually suspected of wrongdoing. When these capabilities fall into the wrong hands, they can destroy the very freedoms that technology should be nurturing, not extinguishing. Surveillance, without regard to the rule of law or our basic human dignity, creates societies that fear free expression and dissent, the very values that make America strong.

In the long, dark shadow cast by the security state, a free society cannot thrive.

That's why one year ago I brought evidence of these irresponsible activities to the public -- to spark the very discussion the U.S. government didn't want the American people to have. With every revelation, more and more light coursed through a National Security Agency that had grown too comfortable operating in the dark and without public consent. Soon incredible things began occurring that would have been unimaginable years ago. A federal judge in open court called an NSA mass surveillance program likely unconstitutional and "almost Orwellian." Congress and President Obama have called for an end to the dragnet collection of the intimate details of our lives. Today legislation to begin rolling back the surveillance state is moving in Congress after more than a decade of impasse.

I am humbled by our collective successes so far. When the Guardian and The Washington Post began reporting on the NSA's project to make privacy a thing of the past, I worried the risks I took to get the public the information it deserved would be met with collective indifference.

One year later, I realize that my fears were unwarranted.

Americans, like you, still believe the Constitution is the highest law of the land, which cannot be violated in secret in the name of a false security. Some say I'm a man without a country, but that's not true. America has always been an ideal, and though I'm far away, I've never felt as connected to it as I do now, watching the necessary debate unfold as I hoped it would. America, after all, is always at our fingertips; that is the power of the Internet.

But now it's time to keep the momentum for serious reform going so the conversation does not die prematurely.

Only then will we get the legislative reform that truly reins in the NSA and puts the government back in its constitutional place. Only then will we get the secure technologies we need to communicate without fear that silently in the background, our very own government is collecting, collating, and crunching the data that allows unelected bureaucrats to intrude into our most private spaces, analyzing our hopes and fears. Until then, every American who jealously guards their rights must do their best to engage in digital self-defense and proactively protect their electronic devices and communications. Every step we can take to secure ourselves from a government that no longer respects our privacy is a patriotic act.

We've come a long way, but there's more to be done.

-- Edward J. Snowden, American your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+52 # fredboy 2014-06-07 09:14
Your headline says it all. Just look at the models we follow: the USSR and Nazi Germany. Hyper secure, zero freedom.

A treacherous path.

All because of a fake election. And an allowed terrorist attack. Prompting Americans to give up their freedom.
+16 # REDPILLED 2014-06-07 12:58
Correction: "And an allowed and assisted terrorist attack".

Three WTC skyscrapers were imploded by contolled demolition.

Whatever hit the Pentagon wasn't a Boeing airliner.
+3 # RMDC 2014-06-08 07:17
Comparing the US to the USSR or Nazi Germany is not helpful. It relies way too much on the stereotypes that the US propaganda system created for both of these political movements. It forces us to accept the lies our government and media gave to us about both the Nazis and the Communists.

Here's more of the truth.

Nazism was strongly supported in the US, UK, and France. Corporatists in these nations invested heavily in Nazi driven industry and the German economic recovery. Just as long as Hitler kept looking east for his expansionism, western governments loved him. The west and US hoped Hitler would invade Russia and destroy communism. They supported him in that. The non-aggression pact between Germany and the USSR turned the west against Hitler. The west was developing the same regime of surveillance and social control as Nazi Germany. It preceded Hitler and went on after him. Read Simpson's The Science of Coercion.

The USSR and the Russian revolution of 1917 were the greatest things that happened in the 20th century. All revolutions produce a lot of problems for the new political system. To focus on the problems that Lenin or Stalin had is to miss the good things they did. And it ignores the constant terrorism, subversion, and outright invasion from the West, principally the US and UK.

The US has developed its own model of social control. It is the most sophisticated and subtle ever in human history. It is also the most complete. Focus on that.
-1 # tgemberl 2014-06-11 17:33
"The USSR and the Russian revolution of 1917 were the greatest things that happened in the 20th century."

The Soviet Union collapsed from within because its economy was unworkable. I agree with the people who say that a command economy worked as long as you were making products that were already proven, like steel and certain kinds of motorized vehicles, especially tanks and other military vehicles. But with the start of the computer revolution, the Soviet economy couldn't keep up. Computer innovation can't happen by centralized planning. There's no way the government could have said to Steve Jobs: "Make an iPod." Creativity depends on individual initiative.

I still think Communism was better than Nazism. There was a basic humanitarian impulse behind it. But it was bound to fail eventually.
+63 # sherryg 2014-06-07 09:55
Edward Snowden's observations about the National Security State are right on target. Unfortunately Mr.Snowden fails to include large corporations, who work with, for and master the government in its spying programs. It is not simply that "government" is behaving badly and unconstitutiona lly. It is that the corporate state and the State are nearly one.
+30 # macdon1 2014-06-07 12:29
Sherry G writes in her previous comment:
"It is not simply that "government" is behaving badly and unconstitutiona lly. It is that the corporate state and the State are nearly one." Sherry this says it all. You have given the classic definition of a fascist state.
+4 # ishmael 2014-06-07 21:43
That is a common misconception. Fascism is based on a pathological notion of racial or national superiority. It is not really an economic arrangement, although that might independently arrive later as a dictatorship takes over.

The right has been reinterpreting and distorting the meaning of the term in recent years, and lot of people seem to be buying into the redefinition.

Corporatism and fascism are pernicious enough by themselves but when they mix the results are predictably horrible.
+9 # Nel 2014-06-07 14:37
He also neglected to mention who own America.
+8 # John S. Browne 2014-06-07 16:29

Nearly one? They are one. No doubt about it. We're already under the "Fourth Reich" in the U.S., and it is getting worse and worse (intentionally being made worse and worse). "Homeland (In)Security" rides all the trains and planes (or, in the case of the latter, U.S. Air Marshals); all of us who fly have to go through security like in Israel and be invasively searched (really raped); checkpoints are being expanded all across the country presuming guilt and searching people and their vehicles without probable cause or a warrant; protest and dissent are being literally crushed (with non-violent protesters being brutally attacked, terrorized and shot with so-called "non-lethal rounds" or beat-up within an inch of their lives) by militarized and other police (including masked and plainclothes officers, and spies, who don't reveal their identities, ever); and on and on and on.

So, if you think we're not already under a corporate-fasci st state like Nazi Germany's govern- ment was, you haven't been paying close enough attention. The invasiveness is being ratcheted up; and Edward Snowden is naive if he really believes that it is truly going to be reversed. There will be many lies, as there already are, that it is being and/or has been reversed, but it will go on in secret, the oppressiveness and repressiveness of the state will increase more and more, and increasingly adverse actions will be taken against innocent citizens for standing up against this madness.

+12 # John S. Browne 2014-06-07 16:47

Nevertheless, Snowden did nothing but the right thing and fulfilled his constitutional duty(ies). He had to try and get the corporate-fasci st nature of the state reversed, as it is also the duty of all of us to do, not just Snowden. Even if the government kidnaps, "disappears" and indefinitely detains, and/or murders, us for non-violently fulfilling our duty(ies) to stand up against the "Fourth Reich" corporate-fasci st state that is increasingly taking over completely, we must NOT accept this monstrous thing that is being done to our beloved country, and turning it into the exact opposite of Truly Free country that it is ONLY supposed to be. We cannot allow our beloved country to be turned into a corporate-fasci st slave state with no True Liberty, Freedom, Privacy, Security and Dignity left whatsoever; even though this is rapidly what it is being turned into.

More and more of you please stand up and seek to take True Liberty and Freedom back; because, if enough of us don't do so, all of those "Americans" who fail to do so, are dooming all of us to living under the thumb of a merciless totalitarian militarized, Orwellian police state. Please don't let it be, people. Please take our government and country back before it's too late, and turn our nation into the Truly Free country that it was ONLY meant to be. Don't let it continue to deteriorate into the antithesis of the True Liberty, Freedom, Privacy, Security and Dignity that it is ONLY supposed to stand for.

+34 # Milarepa 2014-06-07 10:38
Edward, you bear a tremendous burden. Take care of your health. You know best, I can't tell you how. Thanks for what you've done to date. Indeed, you're a true patriot, not just of America but of the world!
-57 # bigbarnjoe 2014-06-07 10:51
I am not so sure your are a national hero. I have reason to doubt that your disclosures were not necessary. The reason I have this doubt is that you have been unwilling to face the charges against you with evidence, cross examination and the panoply of process that are critical to the notion of due process of law. Sitting in an enclave in which you are not availing yourself of these procedures is just not a convincing posture.
+45 # TJGeezer 2014-06-07 11:04
Let's see - unwilling to face charges up to and perhaps including treason because he blew the whistle on illegal and (with a more responsible, less disruptive Supreme Court) unconstitutiona l government actions. In a federal court system packed with Bush and Obama appointees. With a U.S. president who goes after whistle-blowers , not law-breakers. In a system so broken even NSA apologist Diane Feinstein finally had enough.

Untrustworthy? He just seems sane to me.
+6 # HowardMH 2014-06-07 11:48
TJG he sure is and until there are thousands (OK I will concede there are not that many that even understand what is going on in Washington DC, much less get pissed off about it so let’s say One thousand really, really pissed off people on Capital Hill all at the same time – with base ball bats, or 2 x 2s) raising some serious hell against the Lunatics, and idiots absolutely nothing is ever, ever going to happen to these totally bought and paid for by the richest 50 people in the world that are becoming more and more powerful with each passing rigged election thanks to the stupid people.
“For you Coo Coo Birds that think the above means attack with weapons, that is not what I said. 2 x 2s do not constitute attacking with weapons, but it just might get the imbeciles on Capital Hill attention IF enough showed up at the same time. As some retards already found out delivering cantaloupes didn’t get the job done.
How much success have you had with the TOTALLY NON VIOLENT protests over the last few years?
I’m no fan of Sarah’s but this comment is just so appropriate. So how is that Hopei, Changie working out for you now?
+23 # macdon1 2014-06-07 12:39
Due process of law is a cruel joke in a fascist state where mega corporations dictate who sits on the Supreme Court and plutocrats' money masquerading as "free speech" decides elections. I am sure you disagree with me but take a look around at what is happening. Starting with the lowest level local courts, any court watcher knows that 90%of all the people prosecuted are of color and/or poor or they are political activists.
+2 # theshift 33 2014-06-07 14:17
Our Justice system is fractured and not set up to deal with whistleblowers in the
classified arena. Classified is there for
a reason, to protect National Security but it is a doubled edged sword. It sets itself up for rampant abuse. For Snowden to try the regular Justice channels for whistleblowing in areas of
Classified corruption would not work.
Therein was the problem for him with this. Sending him to Russia was the only
way to open it all up for investigation
and still protect National Security,protec t innocent employees caught in it and contain the sensitive classified areas involved in this.
+7 # Terrapin 2014-06-07 19:11
bigbarnjoe ... "The reason I have this doubt is that you have been unwilling to face the charges against you with evidence, cross examination and the panoply of process that are critical to the notion of due process of law."

That seems to me to be such a charming, naive Disneyland view of the American Justice System 2014.

"There is no greater tyranny, than that which is perpetrated under the shield of Law and in the name of Justice.
--- Montesquieu

Perhaps you might aquaint yourself with the fate of Guy Fawks.
-13 # The Buffalo Guy 2014-06-07 23:14
bigbarnjoe! On this site, your words are like seeds thrown among the weeds and the stones. But, although you won't get through closed minds here, your words are true and only part of why this guy Snowden is a TRAITOR! You have to deal with the self-hatred anti-government diatribe on this site. It sickens me to read the self-serving comments by Snowden who acts like he has a copy of the constitution but lacks a dictionary so he doesn't know he is a TRAITOR!
+4 # reiverpacific 2014-06-10 09:40
Quoting The Buffalo Guy:
bigbarnjoe! On this site, your words are like seeds thrown among the weeds and the stones. But, although you won't get through closed minds here, your words are true and only part of why this guy Snowden is a TRAITOR! You have to deal with the self-hatred anti-government diatribe on this site. It sickens me to read the self-serving comments by Snowden who acts like he has a copy of the constitution but lacks a dictionary so he doesn't know he is a TRAITOR!

"He who stands for nothing will accept anything" as Malcom X once said.
You and bbjoe sound like perfect examples of accepting, blinkered, unquestioning conformists to the status quo.
I'd like to add that those in history who have shouted the word "TRAITOR" loudest have tended to be some of the worst and most cowardly, willing to fink on their braver compatriots who wish freedom of information, speech and being.
I've lived in two Fascist states and seen it first hand.
+3 # Milarepa 2014-06-08 13:41
[quote name="bigbarnjo e"] I have reason to doubt that your disclosures were not necessary.
That's an impossible double negative. Git yowself back into da barn, Joe!
-8 # RobertMStahl 2014-06-07 11:00
Perspective is important. It seems there is a war over memory, while evolution is supposed to continue, still, based on the notion of sustainability which is not part of the memory wars, obviously. Where is Indira Singh?

Singh was working on developing software that would, quite easily, follow all the money around the planet, which would find the most serious discrepancies based on the notion that all accounting is, dealing with 'openness' when it comes to following it, the money, thus the high crime, likely drug dealing needing the most protection. The tentacles have extended. That is for sure.

There is one piece of information about the electronic age that leaves people out in the dark, the fact that a smart second grade student could program the software that occupies a niche, and is in fact, completely niche-dependent , to follow the money around the planet. Plus, the software learns to perform better over time gathering data along the way. Pure parallel processing is the difference that makes a difference, the fact the parallel processing alone makes artificial intelligence possible, real intelligence, just contained, is important.

The second grader would need to know genetic algorithms, neural networking, and fuzzy logic.

100% niche-dependent , never able to leave to do anything else once embedded into a particular task, other applications are enabling subways in Japan to run at fantastic speeds without crashing, and developing existing oil and gas fields.
-1 # RobertMStahl 2014-06-08 09:17
One thing is sure at this moment. There is no such thing as left of left. Unless the people on this site who think they are 'left' believe something is going on (which they support like Melville's schools of fish flocking), when it may not be, they do point their finger at some touchdown all the time. In the meantime, the status quo shows no sign of changing. That makes the slouching toward Bethlehem so much less painful, right? Where is Indira Singh? And, why is Arthur Silber, for example, ignored for the theatrically motivated?
+20 # moskol 2014-06-07 12:56
Thanks to Edward Snowden we now have a genuine dialogue on the natinal surveillance scandal.

I do agree with some of the comments that regulations by themselves do not go far enough. Our political party system is broken and is not capable of providing the leadership we need to confront the problems our nation faces.

Truly meanngful changes usually come from the country and not from Washington and Congress. It will take a massive politically effective movement to do what is necessay-the removal from power the large corporations and central banks who have achieved too much control over our lives. That is the long road ahead and the one we will have to travel to restore our democracy.
Hyman Kuritz
+10 # futhark 2014-06-07 15:32
Yes, moskol, we need to stop voting for Demopublicans and Republicrats. These are simply the two hands of the plutocratic puppet masters putting on a show that alternates them in office as a simulacrum of democratic government.
+22 # reo100 2014-06-07 13:40
Thank you Edward Snowden! You are more American than any politician or judge across the land. That's why you are my hero, because you took a stand for us and in doing so, sacrificed so much.
+8 # Bev 2014-06-07 17:49
We are very close to the tipping point by all the economic indicators,poli tical polls and the gut feelings of many of the men and women on the street. It remains to be seen whether Americans rise up and say Enough! and take action or go back to sleep and enslavement. The whole world is watching and many peoples look to us to set an example of (hopefully) a bloodless revolution.
+1 # jky1291 2014-06-07 22:31
The authorization to deploy our military against our own citizens' demonstrations and the use of drones, though currently unarmed, gives one an accurate indication of how bloodless the 1% will tolerate the will of the 99% being implemented. As I have suggested before, whether we become Syria or Egypt will depend on the military and law enforcement abiding by their oath to uphold the Constitution requiring them to "promote the general Welfare" or as their Third Reich predecessors tried to claim "We were just following orders" of a thoroughly corrupt corporate owned rogue government.
+2 # RMDC 2014-06-08 07:27
Snowden is a great role model for all US citizens or in fact all citizens of any nation. He thinks for himself. He knows what his ideals are and what his country should stand for and he takes action to implement those. He does not cower in front of authority. He is always calm and rational.

I personally think his view of freedom is a too unsophisticated . But that's OK. I would not fault him. He believes in the "laissez faire" theory of freedom; that is everyone is just allowed to do what ever they want with no restrictions or regulations. That's not really at stake here. We can still do what we want and there aren't any new regulations imposed on us just because Big Brother is always watching.

What is at stake is the nature of the US regime. The national security state or at the Pentagon likes to name its mission "full spectrum dominance" is the problem. It used to be that governments derived power from people. That is the first principle of democracy. The national security state derives its power from its power -- its full spectrum dominance. This kind of government -- totalitarianism -- is just bad in all senses. Americans probably won't suffer individually, but all the rest of the people of the world will suffer. There will be wars to steal their resources without any end. All Americans need to do is comply -- keep working, shopping, entertaining themselves.
0 # tgemberl 2014-06-11 17:21
I've decided I support Edward Snowden. I think what he did was civil disobedience in the best sense.

I'm not necessarily against government surveillance in a time of genuine emergency. But this "war on terror" has lasted a lot longer than it should.

Let me make a point that I read between the lines of what Snowden said. He may not have said it explicitly because it would obviously be an unpopular thing. But I believe we may need to expose ourselves to the risk of more terrorism. The reason is that the war on terror as we have conceived it doesn't go the heart of why terrorism happens. Terrorists and those who support them are typically depicted as wild, irrational beings who somehow want to kill innocent people for no reason. But I'm pretty sure people don't do such things unless they are provoked.

Essentially, what all this amounts to is that the billions we invest in preventing terrorism go hand in hand with a general policy of not facing up to the roots of Israeli/Palesti nian conflict. As long as we can convince ourselves that terrorists and Muslims in general are just crazy people with weird values, we don't have to do any serious negotiating with them.

I realize this argument wouldn't be a winner in the political realm, but I support Snowden because I think he's pushing us in the right direction.
0 # tgemberl 2014-06-11 17:25

Don't get me wrong. I am not by any stretch of the imagination saying that terrorism is a good thing. And I think it is really pitiful when young people are recruited into suicide attacks with promises of "beautiful virgins for martyrs." But we've got to face up to why these things are happening.

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.