A matter of mere days ago, nobody knew the name Edward Snowden. Now he looks set to replace Julian Assange as the secret sharer everybody’s talking about, having pulled off what some are calling the biggest intelligence leak since Watergate. Since unveiling the true extent and purpose of NSA’s controversial PRISM programme to the world, Snowden has had to flee the United States.
PRISM is used to collect a wide array of online material, including documents, emails and photos, for the attention of NSA agents. Snowden’s revelations have left a number of technology companies struggling to retain their credibility in the public eye, as it becomes increasingly clearer that some may have co-operated with PRISM, in stark disregard for privacy concerns. Technology giants like Google, Apple and Facebook have all vehemently denied any involvement with PRISM, with Mark Zuckerberg going so far as to call claims of foreknowledge “outrageous”.
Snowden is currently living in exile in Hong Kong, having chosen the city for its “spirited commitment to freedom of speech and the right of political dissent”. He doubts he will ever be able to return to the United States, although extradition is still a distinct possibility, due to mainland China’s prerogative to override any extradition decisions made by Hong Kong, which is only semi-autonomous. A tweet from WikiLeaks suggested that China may render Snowden back to the States in an attempt to foster better relations with the American government.
For now, though, Snowden is in something of a purgatory; but he has a number of online supporters who are eager to help in any way they can. Dwight Crow, former Silicon Valley superstar and current Product Manager at Facebook, has launched a crowdfunding campaign called ‘Reward Edward Snowden For Courageously Leaking NSA Docs’. A status update on Crow’s profile reads: “I’d imagine Snowden’s fate is going to be determined by forces larger than legal bills, but have heard he’s stuck in HK with frozen accounts. Figured a little cash might help significantly.”
Crow further outlines his motivations for helping Crow in the official Crowdtilt campaign description: “We should set a precedent by rewarding this type of extremely courageous behaviour. It’s definitely apparent that legal fees may soon be a big part of his future, but I don’t care how he uses the funds raised, whether it’s for a business-class trip to Iceland or just to pay his hotel bills, it’s a reward that I believe we should band together and provide him with.”
The campaign has caused quite the stir, provoking questions of whether donating to Crow’s cause would equal aiding and abetting an enemy of the state, and sparking counter-arguments on the illegality of the NSA’s actions to begin with. Crow has only added fuel to the on-going fire by proposing that any funds raised over the $15,000 target go towards helping other whistle-blowers like Snowden.
In addition to Crow’s efforts, the White House is being pre-emptively petitioned to pardon Snowden. The petition calls Snowden a “national hero”, and at the time of writing this has received over 48,000 signatures.