My Comments: The more things stay the same, the more they change. Or at least I think that’s how the saying goes. I’ve had mixed feelings about Eric Snowdon from the beginning, wondering if what he did was not in our best interest as Americans who relish our freedoms. Our knee jerk reaction was to simply throw his ass in jail, assuming he could be caught.
A recent court ruling may not cause him to be exonerated, but will certainly put a different light on his having leaked classified documents to the world for publication.
May 12, 2015 by Elias Isquith
A few weeks ago, HBO broadcast a roundly celebrated interview between comedian John Oliver and Edward Snowden, the former CIA contractor who became a controversial and world-famous figure after leaking an unknown number of secret U.S. government documents to the press. The interview was funny and wide-ranging, but the overall gist of Oliver’s questions cum critiques was that the Snowden revelations may be historical but have failed to trickle down to the general public. Oliver’s question to Snowden was, rather ironically, whether he was sure anyone was even listening.
Snowden held his own in the Q&A, but now that the United States Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit has delivered a watershed ruling finding a key part of the Patriot Act not only unconstitutional but also illegal, one wonders if Snowden doesn’t wish the interview had been conducted just a few weeks later. Because while John Q. Public may still not have much of an idea of what “bulk collection” or “metadata” means, it’s clear that people in power — both in Congress and on the bench — are paying attention, and many of them have found Snowden’s revelations just as disturbing as he.
Recently, Salon spoke about the ruling over the phone with American University Washington College of Law Professor Stephen Vladeck, an expert on the law who focuses on issues involving national security, counterterrorism, the separation of powers and spying. In addition to discussing how the ruling affects Snowden’s legacy, our conversation also touched on the 2nd Circuit’s findings, the NSA reform movement and the likely near-future of the debate over privacy and mass surveillance. Our chat is below and has been edited for clarity and length.
How important is this ruling, really?
I think it’s important in a couple of different respects. I think one of the biggest reasons why it’s important is because up until this point, the phone records program had been repeatedly approved by the super-secret, one-sided Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA). Now for the first time, adversarial litigation has prompted the courts to consider very carefully whether Congress really did mean back in 2001 to authorize such a sweeping collection of phone records; and the court unanimously says no. That’s a very big statement, and it’s very important. What happens going forward I think now depends on what Congress does in response.