Two Years Later, Edward Snowden Crows About His Victory Over NSA Surveillance
Edward Snowden, a former contractor for the National Security Agency who leaked confidential documents and information to the press regarding the U.S. government's PRISM program, says he has never been "so wrong," and for that he's "grateful." Let's add some context, shall we? Snowden says he was wrong to worry that his efforts and the risk he and the journalists who broke the story over the NSA's bulk collection of phone records would have been for nothing, "that the public would react with indifference, or practiced cynicism, to the revelations."
"Never have I been so grateful to have been so wrong," Snowden said as part of an editorial celebrating the recent forced expiration of the NSA's authority to collect phone records on a mass scale. It's one of two parts that stands out to me, as it underscores the sanity behind what some consider an insane act. Snowden isn't a deranged individual who was hell-bent on ruffling feathers, but a young man who knew he was putting his "privileged" life at risk for what he considered the greater good. Whether or not you agree with him isn't the point.
Some don't and never will. There are those who view Snowden's act as treasonous, including the U.S. government, which "responded by bringing charges against [Snowden] under World War I-era espionage laws." Knowing that, the second point that stands out to me is Snowden's claim that the NSA's bulk collection of phone data didn't yield any worthwhile results.
"Two years on, the difference is profound. In a single month, the N.S.A.’s invasive call-tracking program was declared unlawful by the courts and disowned by Congress. After a White House-appointed oversight board investigation found that this program had not stopped a single terrorist attack, even the president who once defended its propriety and criticized its disclosure has now ordered it terminated," Snowden said.
It's not so much an editorial as it is a victory speech and a long way of saying that what he did was ultimately justified two years after the fact. There's no mention of Rand Paul, the Republican senator and presidential hopeful who essentially forced the expiration of key provisions to the Patriot Act through multiple filibusters. In the wake of that, the Senate eventually approved the USA Freedom Act, which once again gives the NSA the ability to tap into phone records, but not collect them on a mass scale. Now it's the responsibility of telecoms to store phone records, and if the NSA wants to take a peek at ones belonging to a targeted individual, it first needs court approval.
Snowden, now the director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, goes on to say that there's more work to do, that the right to privacy serving as the foundation for the Bill of Rights "remains under threat," in part because governments continue to pressure technology companies to build so-called backdoors into electronic devices.
At this point, it's hard to imagine Snowden being allowed back in the U.S. as a free man, especially when his cause is one that's ongoing. Then again, with a new president on the horizon, potentially even Rand Paul, the ending to Snowden's story has yet to be written.