Happy “Snowden Day”

It all began two years ago today

It all began two years ago today

This is the second anniversary of the first story utilizing material from what has since become known as the “Snowden Archive”. Former NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden has changed the post-9/11 conversation in this country. As he noted in an op-ed published in the New York Times this week:

We are witnessing the emergence of a post-terror generation, one that rejects a worldview defined by a singular tragedy. For the first time since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, we see the outline of a politics that turns away from reaction and fear in favor of resilience and reason. With each court victory, with every change in the law, we demonstrate facts are more convincing than fear. As a society, we rediscover that the value of a right is not in what it hides, but in what it protects.

Facts may indeed be a stubborn thing, but that has not prevented House and Senate members from continuing to invoke the falsehood that mass surveillance actually works in stopping terror attacks on the United States, as I noted earlier this week. And even the supporters of the just-passed USA Freedom Act understand that dismantling the Surveillance State will be a protracted affair whose outcome is uncertain:

Though the law represents a marked step forward, New York City Congressman Jerry Nadler says more needs to be done to protect Americans from government overreach.
“The bill, of which I’m a co-author, is a very good start — but it’s only a start,” he says. “It does end most of the bulk collection of data, and it makes a number of very substantial and very positive changes. But it leaves a number of other things undone.”

The most important “undone” task is a holistic examination of the totality of U.S. government surveillance programs — and not just those we know about like the PATRIOT Act and the FISA Amendments Act, but the others that remain hidden until exposed episodically by journalists. And while supporters of still greater surveillance reform achieved a major victory on the House floor this week, the fact remains that legislating to stop the bad surveillance programs we know about will only address the visible part of the problem.

Earlier this year, former Church Committee veterans came together to issue a fresh call for a new investigative committee to examine the Surveillance State that has arisen in the decades after they completed their work. In an interview with Julian Hattem of The Hill, they made their case succinctly:

“Examining whether the controls and structures created four decades ago remain an effective bulwark against error and abuse is necessary and appropriate. And the growing mistrust of U.S. intelligence activities at home and abroad make it essential.”

Based on the latest revelations about NSA’s activities, such a comprehensive review and accounting cannot come quickly enough.