Snowden leaked information about Prism to The Guardian and The Washington Post a day after a similar scandal broke: a court order was issued requiring Verizon, America's largest wireless carrier, to hand over phone records to the NSA, which President Barack Obama has defended as necessary in the fight against terrorism.
Prism's main purpose is to track foreign communications that pass through US servers, but it is reportedly such a major tool that it is included in analytical reports for Obama's daily intelligence briefing. One of its associated programmes, Boundless Informant, gave the NSA almost "three billion pieces of intelligence from US computer networks over a 30-day period ending in March 2013", according to Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian.
Both Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron have asserted that the NSA and British intelligence agency, Government Communications Headquarters, respectively, operate "within the law". US National Intelligence Director James Clapper has even issued a fact sheet response, detailing the boundaries of Prism, and its legal framework, as provided by Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act since 2008.
But is sacrificing privacy in the name of security truly justified? Obama claims: "You can't have 100 per cent security and then have 100 per cent privacy." In the internet age, however, Americans willingly give their information to social networks and corporations for their services, yet cry "Big Brother" when the government collects data without their knowledge. Those parameters may need redefining.
Snowden, like Manning before him, acted in what he felt were the best interests of US citizens: they had a right to know, and a right to hold the system accountable for its wrongdoings. His actions should be commended.