2015 May 20

Edward Snowden, in Exile, Savors Recognition, Victories


Two years after releasing National Security Agency (NSA) documents that exposed massive illegal spying by the NSA, Edward Snowden remains in exile in Russia, but savors international recognition for his actions and a major victory in Congress. See June 5, 2013 for the first of the stories based on the Snowden-released documents.

A story in the New York Times on this day found that while Snowden is a fugitive from justice from the United States, and reviled by virtually everyone in the U.S. government, he is enjoying international renown, frequently speaking to groups around the world by telecommunications.

Snowden also scored a major victory on June 2, 2015 when Congress reauthorized surveillance under the PATRIOT ACT (October 26, 2001), but only with significant new restrictions. The law does not allow the government to collect and store “bulk data;” private communications store phone and email records and the government can obtain a record only with a subpoena from the FISA Court (created on October 25, 1978). The law also ordered the secret FISA Court to declassify some of its important decisions, adding a new degree of transparency to the Court. Finally, the law allows private individuals to appear before the secret court to argue for privacy rights in particular cases.

The 2015 law was the first time since 1978 that Congress had scaled back government surveillance. Observers generally credited the change in the mood of Congress regarding surveillance with the revelations from the documents released by Snowden.

Snowden could also take satisfaction in the fact that journalists to whom he released the NSA documents won both Pulitzer Prizes (April 14, 2014) and the George W. Polk Award (February 6, 2014).

Learn more about Snowden: Luke Harding, The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man (2014)

Learn more; documents and analysis of the Snowden/NSA documents at the National Security Archive: http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB436/

Watch the acclaimed film about Snowden: Citizenfour (2014)

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