Snowden Revelations, a Year Later: Shock, Risk and Skewed Claims
Posted at 6:58 p.m. on June 5
Students of the Muthesius Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Kiel uncoil a placard Thursday showing Snowden as part of a campaign by German activists to gain asylum for him. (Carsten Rehder/AFP/Getty Images)
Surveillance policy hasn’t changed much. The disclosures have the potential to spur more transparency. Efforts to make changes haven’t gone far enough. The leaks caused unprecedented damage. The whole story isn’t being told. Those thoughts and more can be found in commentary published today about the one-year anniversary of the Edward Snowden disclosures.
Elizabeth Goitein at New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice writes in The Christian Science Monitor that the “only thing more striking than the changes that have resulted is how much has stayed the same.”
“On the one hand, the country’s surveillance policies have been subject to scrutiny and revision that would have been unimaginable one year ago,” she writes.
But on the other hand, “bulk collection – the NSA program that has been most controversial among Americans and that has the weakest security justification – continues,” she writes.
Danielle Kehl and Kevin Bankston at the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute write in CNN that National Security Agency surveillance activities threaten the U.S.’s economic interests, “undermine our foreign policy objectives and damage the security of the global Internet.”
“While the initial shock of NSA surveillance may have faded a bit, the deeper concerns are not going away any time soon,” they write. They go on to call for an overhaul that “go above and beyond” a House-passed bill.
But it’s Snowden who has “caused more damage to national security than any leaker in U.S. history,” write former National Security Agency Director Gen. Keith B. Alexander and former Deputy Director John “Chris” Inglis in USA Today.
“Over the past year, we’ve watched as terrorists and our adversaries learned from the information Snowden provided, and changed their M.O. His disclosures tipped our hand,” they write, adding that they believed the consequences would be “measured in the loss of lives and an increased risk to property, security and safety in the U.S. and around the world.”
What of the original claims made by Snowden and his supporters that their actions were justified as a means to reveal a gross imbalance between security and privacy? Those claims have far too often been misrepresented or skewed to tell only a small part of the larger story.
Patrice McDermott, executive director of OpenTheGovernment.org writes in Roll Call that the disclosures weren’t the best way to begin a discussion but that it wouldn’t have happened without the disclosures:
While we agree with President Barack Obama that the disclosures made by Snowden are not the optimal way to have started the discussion about the secret law that has allowed startling levels of surveillance of purely domestic communications and digital activities of United States citizens, we also believe that the discussion — and the changes that are tentatively unfolding — would not have occurred otherwise.
“The bubble that has seemed to protect the intelligence community from President Obama’s openness initiatives may have sprung a leak,” she writes, adding that as overhaul legislation moves to the Senate, lawmakers need to ensure that the “leak is not resealed.”