NSA Whistleblower: I Could Have Read President Obama's Emails


“The most confounding thing in writing about the NSA/PRISM/Snowden clusterfark is that, if you don’t work in national security, there’s no yardstick to measure which claims are plausible and which are insane,” writes Allah. “That in itself is a brutal indictment of the surveillance state, of course: The government’s powers are so vast and so secret that even a citizen who follows the news really can’t debate them intelligently.”

That’s a point to keep in mind as we consider some of the latest accusations coming from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who says that he had wiretapping capabilities so broad that he could have read President Obama’s emails if he wanted to:

He says he was granted broad “wiretapping” authorities. In a video interview with The Guardian, Snowden claims to have had incredibly broad authority to wiretap Americans, saying “I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal e-mail.”

Snowden, who has hightailed it to Hong Kong in what he admits is an in-vain attempt to stay out of US custody, says the US intelligence community will murder to keep their access to this data:

“I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions, and that the return of this information to the public marks my end,” [Snowden] wrote in early May, before we had our first direct contact. He warned that even journalists who pursued his story were at risk until they published.

The U.S. intelligence community, he wrote, “will most certainly kill you if they think you are the single point of failure that could stop this disclosure and make them the sole owner of this information.”

Is that paranoia? It sounds like it, but then how do you accuse a guy who just dropped the dime on a massively controversial, and oh-so-scarily-real NSA domestic surveillance program of being a paranoid?

I’d like to believe that a twenty-something NSA IT employee couldn’t sit in his office and read my emails, let alone the President’s. I’d also like to believe that the reporters and others seeking to bring some sunlight and accountability to these operations aren’t in danger.

Maybe they aren’t, but the problem is we don’t know, and we’re told we can’t know because of that all-purpose trump card, national security.