Edward Snowden came close to outright declaring victory Tuesday in his crusade against government spying, seizing on the White House’s plan to end bulk collection of domestic phone records in its current state.
“This is a turning point, and it marks the beginning of a new effort to reclaim our rights from the NSA and restore the public’s seat at the table of government,” the former National Security Agency contractor said in a statement circulated by the American Civil Liberties Union, which is providing the fugitive legal advice.
He added: “Congress is considering historic, albeit incomplete reforms. And President Obama has now confirmed that these mass surveillance programs, kept secret from the public and defended out of reflex rather than reason, are in fact unnecessary and should be ended.”
Snowden’s comments arrive a day after The New York Times reported that Obama would accept a proposal from his administration to allow the vast database of phone records to stay in the hands of phone companies. The switch from current protocol would allow NSA agents to access data on a target only after obtaining an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Snowden, 30, became an overnight household name in June 2013, after leaking about 1.7 million top-secret documents he downloaded when employed in Hawaii by government contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. A torrent of news reports exposing the government’s surveillance programs continued throughout the year and has not abated in 2014.
Snowden fled to Hong Kong and eventually landed in Russia, where he currently resides, following an extended diplomatic controversy culminating with him earning temporary asylum there.
Earlier on Tuesday, Obama said he was “confident” the NSA changes would address privacy concerns.
“It allows us to do what is necessary in order to deal with the dangers of a nefarious attack and addresses the dangers that people have raised,” the president said.
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Despite President Trump's announcement that his tax reform proposal would be released this week, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney now says it will be ready in June. This week's announcement will be limited to "specific governing principles."
Donald Trump is expected Monday to sign an executive order which will mark his administration's first action on offshore oil and gas drilling. The order is expected to call for a "review of the locations available for offshore oil and gas exploration and of certain regulations governing offshore oil and gas exploration."
Vice President Mike Pence has cut his Asia trip short "to race back to Washington, where the Trump administration faces a critical week on tax reform and a funding plan to keep the government running, an aide said on Sunday." Pence will return to Washington on Tuesday morning instead of Wednesday. Trump has a busy week ahead, as he plans to roll out a tax reform on framework, sign a number of executive orders, and works to keep the government open past Friday.
"Centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right politician Marine Le Pen led the first round of voting in France’s presidential election, according to early projections, as voters redrew the political map, placing the European Union at the center of a new political divide. Projections by the Kantar-Sofres polling firm showed Mr. Macron on track to win the first round with about 24% of the vote, ahead of Ms. Le Pen with nearly 22%." The vote marks the end of the country's dominance by conservative and socialist parties. The top vote-getters head to a runoff on May 7.
President Trump will deliver the keynote address for at the National Holocaust Museum's National Day of Remembrance ceremony on Tuesday. He'll speak from the Capitol Rotunda. The move is likely an effort to try to mend fences with Jewish groups. In January, "the White House ignited controversy when it didn't mention Jews or anti-Semitism in a statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day." And certain members of his inner circle are still suspected of harboring white supremacist or anti-Semitic views."