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.
What We're Following See More »
"A lawyer representing Chris Gard and Connie Yates told the High Court 'time had run out' for the baby. Mr. Gard said it meant his 'sweet, gorgeous, innocent little boy' will not reach his first birthday on 4 August. 'To let our beautiful little Charlie go' is 'the hardest thing we'll ever have to do,' his mother said. Charlie's parents said they made the decision because a US doctor had told them it was now too late to give Charlie nucleoside therapy.
"Eleven states have sued the Environmental Protection Agency over its June decision to delay implementation of a chemical safety rule" until 2019. "The state attorneys general, led by New York’s Eric Schneiderman (D), argue the rule is important for 'protecting our workers, first-responders and communities from chemical accidents' and should be allowed to take affect as planned by the Obama administration’s EPA.