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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Digital Fortress....... PRISM - Snowden on the run... Asylum !?!?!?

Truth is stranger than fiction……. Or does sometimes fiction symbolizes what Govt action could be – read Dan Brown’s Digital Fortress ?


It primarily refers to a transparent optical element with flat, polished surfaces that refract light. The traditional geometrical shape is that of a triangular prism with a triangular base and rectangular sides, and in colloquial use "prism" usually refers to this type.  Prism can break light up into its constituent spectral colors (the colors of the rainbow) ~ Prism is in news not for this property though and a man hardly 30 is on the run – can read of India’s stand in the concluding para.

PRISM is in fact  a clandestine national security electronic surveillance program operated by the United States National Security Agency (NSA) since 2007; PRISM is a government code name for a data collection effort.  Its existence was leaked by NSA contractor who claimed the extent of mass data collection was far greater than the public knew, and included "dangerous" and "criminal" activities in law. The disclosures were published by The Guardian and The Washington Post on June 6, 2013. Many feel that the Prism internet surveillance program is a  "game changer" that will spark a fundamental rethink of web privacy by web users.

The whistle blower who is hardly 30 is on the run, reportedly had had applied for political asylum to 21 countries including India. A statement attributed to  him contends  that the U.S. administration, and specifically Vice President Biden, had unjustly pressured the governments of these countries to refuse his petition for asylum. Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly said any asylum request would be considered only if he stopped leaking the United States' secrets. In response, he withdrew his asylum application to Russia.  Reports suggest that in a Gallup poll conducted in June 2013,  44 percent of Americans thought it was right for him to share the information with the press while 42 percent thought it was wrong.

Hours after  his real identity was revealed, a We the People petition was posted on the White House website, asking for "a full, free, and absolute pardon for any crimes  he had  committed or may have committed related to blowing the whistle on secret NSA surveillance programs.".  Perhaps in US itself, whether he is a traitor or a hero who has exposed what people ought to know is hotly debated. 

That is all about - Edward Joseph Snowden (born June 21, 1983)-  a US former technical contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee who leaked details of top-secret US and British government mass surveillance programs to the press. Working primarily with Glenn Greenwald of London's The Guardian, which published a series of exposés based on Snowden's disclosures in June 2013, Snowden revealed information about a variety of classified intelligence programs, including the interception of US and European telephone metadata and the PRISM and Tempora Internet surveillance programs.  Snowden said the leaks were an effort "to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them". Snowden's leaks are said to rank among the most significant breaches in the history of the NSA.


On June 14, 2013, US federal prosecutors charged Snowden with theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information, and willful communication of classified intelligence to an unauthorized person; the latter two allegations are under the Espionage Act. He is on the run ….. seeking asylum in countries including India

His request is reverberating International arena.  Today it is reported that the plane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales was rerouted to Austria after France and Portugal refused to let it cross their airspace because of suspicions that NSA leaker Edward Snowden was on board.  Mr Morales was returning from a summit in Russia. A furious Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca said France and Portugal would have to explain why they cancelled authorisation for the plane, claiming that the decision had put the president’s life at risk.  One of Mr. Snowden’s best chances of finding refuge outside the United States may hinge on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who was also in Russia on Tuesday.

Meantime, rejecting allegations of political vendetta, the U.S.said Edward Snowden is rightfully charged by its courts for espionage and leaking classified information and Washington is making diplomatic efforts to ensure he is brought back to face those charges. For decades the United States of America have been one of the strongest defenders of the human right to seek asylum.  Now, a man from its land has  sought asylum in as many as 21 countries including India, Russia, Germany and China. India, Brazil and Poland are the three countries which have rejected his request.

The Indian response to Snowden’s request is on expected lines as New Delhi would not like to put its bilateral relations with Washington at stake for the sake of one individual, no matter whatever humanitarian service he may have rendered to the cause of rights of privacy. The Indian response makes it clear that in the pragmatism versus idealism debate over the Snowden episode, New Delhi has opted for the former.

According to new leaks from Snowden, he US listened in on communications of most of its friends and allies. The Guardian, which has released the documents says, - along with traditional ideological adversaries and sensitive Middle Eastern countries, the list of targets included many and that included India.  A defiant President Barack Obama dismissed mounting criticism over whistleblower Edward Snowden's revelations of US surveillance on many nations including India, saying all countries routinely spy on others. – and back home, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid today defended the vast US surveillance programme under which India is the fifth most tracked country, saying, "it is not actually snooping". "This is not scrutiny and access to actual messages. It is only computer analysis of patterns of calls and emails that are being sent. It is not actually snooping on specifically on content of anybody's message or conversation", Khurshid, who is currently in Brunei to attend series of ASEAN meetings, told reporters.

The book of Dan Brown – ‘Digital Fortress’ published in 1998 is on the  theme of government surveillance of electronically stored information on the private lives of citizens, and the possible civil liberties and ethical implications using such technology. The story revolves on a code-breaking supercomputer (TRANSLTR) which runs into trouble due to a program implanted by  Ensei Tankado, a former NSA employee who became displeased with the intrusion into people's private lives. Can you decipher the anagram ‘NDAKOTA’ – who is his secret partner……...

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

3rd July 2013.

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