Imagine the phone rings and it's your lover on the other end (apologies if you're single). Your relationship has never been better and the banter you two are sharing suddenly escalates into a scenario straight out of a popular 1985 Village People song, a moment that is inarguably private.
Imagine you receive an email from your business partner, also a dear friend of yours. It's him stating that he can't work overtime this week because of a nasty divorce he's going through right now. Comforting him, you tell him that everything will be okay, assuring him that the adult toy business can become second priority after personal matters.
Or perhaps you're in the bedroom and drop your pants in front of your laptop, thinking no one is watching from that little black lens. After all, the webcam light is off.
Private matters: unmonitored phone conversations, no eavesdropping in private email conversations and certainly no one peering through your webcam.
Enter the National Security Agency, or the NSA.
In the name of fighting terrorism, there's a third party watching your every move.
Who's one of the individuals responsible for hacking into your system? Edward Snowden. He is a system administrator for the NSA, and his job is to protect the American people by spying on the American people. Cheers to his agency's disregard for the U.S. Constitution, without a warrant from an office in Hawaii he can read your every email and listen to all of your phone conversations.
But you're not a terrorist.
And Snowden is ethically disgusted.
Bit by bit, in 2013, Snowden leaks information he was sworn not to disclose, information not about the public such as what he saw in the bedroom or what he heard in the email but rather information about the NSA that he feels should be made public — how the agency collects private data and what kind of private data it collects, and why that's an infringement on U.S. citizens' constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment of the United States:
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
While in Hong Kong on a permitted visit from Hawaii in early June 2013, Snowden gave an interview about the recent NSA leaks and how he was the man behind them — his cover now blown and the United States government now on his tail.
Fleeing to Russia on June 23, 2013, the United States Department of Justice had charged Snowden two days earlier for theft of government property and two counts of espionage.
Espionage: the act of spying.
But wait, the NSA was spying on the American people in the name of terrorism counterintelligence, exercising their warrantless and illegal practices of eavesdropping into anyone's online or phone conversation.
That is the true espionage, not Edward Snowden simply exposing the NSA's unconstitutional operations to which he was a part of and acted heroically in blowing the whistle, selflessly taking the risk to inform the American people that this Orwellian-like surveillance (and by definition — espionage) is standard operating procedure within the NSA.
Thanks to Snowden, U.S. citizens are smarter.
"I acted on my belief that the NSA's mass surveillance programs would not withstand a constitutional challenge, and that the American public deserved a chance to see these issues determined by open courts ... today, a secret program authorized by a secret court was, when exposed to the light of day, found to violate Americans' civil rights. It is the first of many." -Edward Snowden
Federal judges have and still do voice their concerns over the NSA's unconstitutional practices all because of what Snowden brought to light — a previous insider who exposed the system he was behind, a system that is now being brought down thanks to our great Constitution and those that fight to preserve it.
Snowden's revelations have not gone unnoticed by Congress either. In June 2015, the USA Freedom Act was passed, barring the NSA's warrantless mass surveillance of phone data.
Despite the positive impact of Snowden's NSA leaks, the Department of Justice isn't budging on its charges against him.
Still a U.S. fugitive living in Russia under asylum, Snowden's freedoms are limited simply because of the risk he took fighting for our freedom, exposing unconstitutional practices by the NSA and advocating for our right to privacy under the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Wanting to return home, Snowden is considering facing his charges in the United States only if guaranteed a fair trial. Facing a maximum of 30 years in prison, if he decides to go this route he must tread carefully or be reminded of what the great Jack Kevorkian said about the system: