Edward Snowden: NSA Reforms Mark ‘A Turning Point’

The face of the anti-spying movement speaks out on Obama’s plan to reshape government surveillance.

National Journal
Dustin Volz
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Dustin Volz
March 25, 2014, 1:19 p.m.

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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