In June, a stream of news reports describing global surveillance programs run by the National Security Agency began to appear – based on top-secret documents leaked by Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor. Mr. Snowden, now a fugitive in Russia, may have leaked as many as 200,000 documents detailing surveillance programs with code names like XKeyscore, PRISM, and CO-TRAVELER.
So far, documents show the NSA collecting "meta-data" on virtually all US phone calls for the past six years and about 5 billion cellphone records per day from overseas, including some of Americans. They show the agency filtering global Internet traffic, including Google and social media.
Snowden's crusade has spurred debate about privacy rights and surveillance: Congress is examining NSA practices, privacy lawsuits have been filed, and a White House panel would modify NSA practices.
Foreign governments are furious, while in polls, 74 percent of Americans say the NSA violated privacy. Snowden says he is "neither traitor nor hero. I'm an American." Others say he should be jailed for life.
– Mark Clayton, Staff writer