THE story has everything except the shaken martini.
A massive security breach, an international escape and chase, a betrayed girlfriend and plenty of political intrigue.
You can even throw in a bit of Moscow-Washington Cold War tension for the good old days.
No – it’s not the next Bond film, this is the incredible true story of American whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Mr Snowden collaborated with top global newspapers to leak classified American intelligence showing unprecedented surveillance of American and foreign citizens.
While denied by American authorities, a leaked presentation suggests the National Security Agency has accessed the servers of Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, AOL, Skype and YouTube to “datamine” information.
That would mean your data – what you say, who you’ve said it to, what you’ve seen online – is sitting on a US government computer, ready to be accessed if they should ever need to.
How comfortable are you with that prospect?
The revelations keep coming as Mr Snowden, believed to be hiding out in a Moscow airport en route to legal sanctuary, drip feeds the media with new leaks.
Mr Snowden’s justification is simple, telling The Guardian, “I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things”.
The NSA counters with the security line; it stops crime and terrorism in its tracks.
NSA director Keith Alexander said the surveillance programs had helped prevent more than 50 “potential terrorist incidents” including plots on the New York stock exchange and subway.
In the US, the issue has dominated domestic politics, as representatives grapple with an age-old question; to what extent should our civil liberties be wound back in the name of national security?
Mr Snowden is a traitor to some, a whistleblower to others.
The US government has been unequivocal, laying three charges of theft and unauthorised communication of classified intelligence, each carrying a penalty of a decade’s jail, and calling for Mr Snowden’s immediate return to US soil.
A decade ago, Australian law enforcement was kinder on intelligence whistleblower and now Denison MHR Andrew Wilkie, who exposed trumped up claims on the eve of the invasion of Iraq, calling the war “not ethical, not necessary and not legal”.
Mr Wilkie resigned his job and was cut off by fellow spooks, despite two decades’ service to the infantry and intelligence community.
He believes Mr Snowden’s actions are for the best, but he should have known what to expect.
“I think Edward Snowden acted in the public interest,” Mr Wilkie said.
“But in the absence of any effective whistle-blower protection in the US Mr Snowden should have understood that he’d need to deal with the legal ramifications of his actions.”
Mr Wilkie said the US’s actions to conduct surveillance on foreigners, including Australians, should not shock, and were justified as long as “appropriate privacy protection regimes are in place”.
A proposal to retain every Australian’s telephone and internet data for up to two years, described as the most significant expansion of the Australian intelligence community’s powers since the September 11 attacks, was last week recommended against by a Parliamentary committee.
Australians might argue we get the balance between privacy and security right, but how are we able to make that choice if intelligence programs are hidden, denied and obscured?
To quote Timothy Garton Ash, “In a democracy it is for us to judge where to place the balance between security and privacy, safety and liberty”.
Traitorous or not, Mr Snowden’s actions have given Americans a better place to gauge whether they have that balance right.
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