Last Tuesday, the first class of my senior year was “Introduction to Computer Security,” a class about the ideas and techniques involved in protecting computers and other digital systems from intrusions and misuse. Members of the class were discussing recent events in the security world. I immediately thought of Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning, currently in exile and prison, respectively, as I’m sure many of my peers did.
Manning and Snowden both worked in the intelligence field and were given high-level security clearances to computer systems that enabled them to view classified documents. When Manning and Snowden chose to become whistleblowers, they proved that no matter how secure a computer system is made, there can never be a way to guard against the human elements involved in the system itself. During the course of their work, they learned that their respective employers had been or are currently engaged in secret activities that each found reprehensible and worthy of public disclosure. Their actions were an attempt to bring a level of transparency and accountability to the government programs and actions they had revealed.
While pondering the relationship between computer security and Snowden and Manning, I read an email from the Tufts administration calling for nominations from the community for honorary degree candidates. My mind began to wander from whistleblowers to thoughts of other prestigious awards. I remembered that in 2009 the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to newly-elected President Barack Obama “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”