The Plattsburgh State Honors Center hosted a national issues forum Wednesday in Yokum Hall. The panel discussion was focused on cyber-espionage in the age of terrorism and Edward Snowden, whether he is a hero or traitor.
The panel consisted of Criminal Justice professor Dr. Monica Ciobanu, Chair of the Journalism and Public Relations Department Dr. Jonathan Slater, Professor Emeritus of Computer Science Dr. Stewart Denenberg and Assistant Professor of Political Science Dr. Daniel Lake.
The forum was organized by Director of Honors Program Dr. James Armstrong by and German professor Dr. Jurgen Kleist.
Armstrong said the purpose of this series of forums is to discuss national and global issues that are relevant to the campus community.
“The issue of the violation of human privacy is something i’m into,” Armstrong said. “What worries me is that you may not be doing anything wrong but your actions may be interpreted as such.”
Armstrong said he has noticed a lack of concern of the consistent violation of privacy both by corporations and the government so he wanted to make sure people are informed.
The topic of whether Edward Snowden is a hero or traitor was discussed at the panel with a variety of opinions being voiced. In 2013, Snowden leaked classified information from the National Security Agency which revealed numerous global surveillance programs. Many of which were run by the NSA itself and the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance with the help of telecommunication companies.
“The story has that built in conflict of whether what he did was good or bad,” Armstrong said. “Or does it serve both purposes?”
Slater said during the panel the topic of Snowden is a complicated one, but it served as a catalyst for issues that go beyond one person.
“Snowden committed an illegal act. Regardless of what you think he did was right or wrong,” Slater said.
Slater pointed out that Snowden is not the first of his kind and mentioned Daniel Ellsberg, who famously leaked the Pentagon Papers to the Washington Post and other major newspapers.
Cyber-espionage in the age of terrorism is more prevalent than ever with the everyday advancement of technologies.
Denenberg said today’s surveillance is more serious and dangerous to the average citizen and compared it to the methods used in the Cold War.
“The scary thing is that citizens are inadvertently putting themselves under surveillance,” Denenberg said. “It seems like the logic of national security is to get every bit of information they can get. We’ve eavesdropped on our own allies not only our enemies.”
One PSUC student said he had nothing to hide and Kleist responsed that If he were working for the NSA he would find that very suspicious.
Ciobanu said that fear plays a role.
“We’ve become accustomed to not asking questions,” she said. “What is the government doing? I don’t think we ask that enough.”
Denenberg said that anything can be turned into a sin nowadays.
“The way information is gathered anything you say or do can be found if someone wants to,” Denenberg said.
PSUC freshman computer security program major Cameron Kollar thought the panel discussion was informative and was glad he learned more about cyber security.
“I was actually surprised that corporations do more surveillance on us than the government,” Kollar said. It’s concerning that all of this information can be so easily accessible.”
Kollar said events like these are good because they bring people together and they are able to discuss and debate on somewhat controversial issues in a civil manner.
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