8:09 AM, May 26, 2015 • By GARY SCHMITT
While the country slept Friday night and into Saturday morning, the U.S. Senate debated and voted on whether to alter substantially the NSA’s bulk telephone meta-data collection program, extend it for a short period, or simply let it die on June 1 when the “sunset” provision governing the relevant section (Sec. 215) of the Patriot Act kicks in.
Well, there was no result. “The world’s greatest deliberative body” could neither pass the bill that would have altered the program nor pass an extension. What’s left is a game of chicken, with the House of Representatives and the Obama administration having backed the reform measure and the Senate leadership—that is, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—arguing that with the rise of ISIS this was no time to be gutting a counterterrorism tool. But in the absence of either the House or the Senate changing its position and enacting some measure, the Justice Department said it would begin the process of shutting down the program as of last Friday to meet the June 1 statutory deadline. (This coming from a Justice Department that has repeatedly found all kinds of reasons to “interpret” laws to avoid their apparent strictures.)
Watching the three branches of government deal with the legal issues and political controversy over the National Security Agency’s telephony meta-data collection program has not been a pretty picture. Indeed, not a single branch has covered itself in glory.
When the program was first revealed by a leak from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, it caused quite the uproar. NSA was, without individualized court warrants, sweeping up massive amounts of domestic and foreign telephone meta-data: the number called from, the number called, at what time, and for how long the call was made. Matching that data up with numbers being used by suspected terrorists, NSA was able to look for possible terrorist connections here and abroad and pass that information on to the FBI or CIA. From the headlines and news accounts covering the Snowden’s leak, it seemed the era of “Big Brother” had truly arrived.
But, as referees at football games now say, “upon further review,” it turned out that a.) the NSA was not using the data to snoop on Americans gratuitously; b.) only a select few analysts at NSA had access to the data; c.) the program collected no call content; d.) federal judges associated with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court were overseeing on a regular basis what numbers could be used to query the data base; and e.) members of Congress had been briefed on the program. Moreover, as a constitutional matter, the collection itself was arguably within the boundaries set by the Supreme Court when it came to Fourth Amendment strictures on legitimate government “searches and seizures.”
In spite of these facts, and the fact that his administration had utilized the program throughout his first term, the president acted as though the program was some alien creature—personally choosing neither to defend the intelligence community from the public onslaught nor the program itself. It was nearly a half-year before he spoke out. Even then, he confused matters further by stating no wrong had been committed but still raising the ominous specter of past police state practices. What he offered up were a few half measures designed to address problems that didn’t exist and which appeased no one.
More recently, a federal appeals court concluded that the collection program is not, as the FISA court and the Justice Department had previously argued, authorized by the Patriot Act’s Section 215. The opinion—which relies on far from convincing interpretations of congressional floor statements to reach its narrow reading of Section 215 and virtually ignores the contrary legal opinions of fellow federal judges from the FISC—however ends by punting on whether to enjoin NSA from further collection. Issued precisely when Congress was considering whether to amend the law governing the program or reauthorize Section 215, the Court’s decision amounted to a politically-charged “advisory” opinion, a practice that the federal courts have traditionally and wisely avoided.
Apr 20, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 30 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
Last week, Edward Snowden came out (or was let out) of his home in liberty-loving Russia to grant an interview to John Oliver, erstwhile Comedy Central Daily Show correspondent and current host of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. A few seconds in, the ever-so-earnest Snowden began to realize that Oliver, much like his mentors Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, was actually less interested in conducting a traditional interview than in needling him.
2:10 PM, Jul 7, 2014 • By GARY SCHMITT
Yesterday, the Washington Post’s top story was another leak from NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Unlike many of the Post’s other Snowden stories, where sensationalism has greatly outweighed the reported facts about this or that NSA program, this one had more substance and less breathless analysis.
10:00 AM, May 28, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
White House press secretary Jay Carney told the press today that NSA leaker Edward Snowden "faces felony charges here in the United States and he ought to return here to face these charges." Carney made the comments aboard Air Force One, en route to West Point where President Obama will deliver today's commencement address.
Via the pool report:
7:33 AM, Jan 29, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Betray your country, hide out in a thugocracy, then have your name put up for the Nobel Peace Prize. So goes Snowden’s improbable odyssey as reported by Reuters:
Feb 3, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 20 • By GARY SCHMITT
In the wake of all the “leaks” by Edward Snowden of the National Security Agency’s collection programs and the resulting debate over those programs, one constantly hears from elected officials and the commentariat about the need to strike the right balance between privacy and security. More often than not, this is followed by a suggestion that, as a country, since 9/11, we haven’t.
2:22 PM, Jan 9, 2014 • By GARY SCHMITT
For all those civil libertarians of both the left and the right who think we ought to thank Edward Snowden for his actions in revealing NSA’s secret metadata collection program—or, at a minimum, believe the U.S. government should show leniency toward him should he ever come back to these shores—they might want to just stop for a moment and consider what else Mr. Snowden has revealed.
9:01 AM, Dec 19, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
Russia strongman Vladimir Putin had some kind words for NSA leaker Edward Snowden. "[H]e's noble," Putin said at a press conference in Moscow today. Snowden has been given temporary asylum in Russia and is on the run from the U.S. government.
"Thanks to Mr. Snowden, a lot has changed in the minds of people around the world ... We don’t help him - we just gave him temporary asylum," said Putin, according to NBC.
12:00 AM, Nov 9, 2013 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
That’s the way globalization ends, not with one large headline, but with several changes in the direction of policy, caused by events seemingly unrelated to the policy changes they produce. That’s bad news for those who believe that freer trade and an increase in the international flow of capital -- the principal manifestations of globalization -- contribute to efficiency, rising incomes and job creation. And they know who to blame -- Edward Snowden and Barack Obama.
6:10 PM, Nov 4, 2013 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
During an appearance on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday, Congressman Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said that al Qaeda has changed the way it communicates in light of Edward Snowden’s leaks. Rogers said of Snowden (emphasis added):
8:17 AM, Sep 17, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Reuters reports that Edward Snowden, who stole any of his own country's secrets that he could get his hands on before fleeing to the arms of its enemies is a hero. Or is, at any rate:
Sep 9, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 01 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
There are reasons to worry about NSA surveillance. Civil servants have all the usual human frailties, and when they abuse their power, it’s good to know about it—that’s why we have extensive whistleblower protection laws. But whistle-blowing is different from stealing state secrets and absconding to an unfriendly power, as Edward Snowden did this summer.
3:37 PM, Aug 9, 2013 • By MICHAEL WARREN
At his Friday afternoon press conference, President Barack Obama said he does not consider Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency contractor who leaked classified information, a patriot.
"No, I don't think Mr. Snowden was a patriot," said Obama, in response to a question from NBC News's Chuck Todd. Watch the video below:
11:39 AM, Aug 1, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
Senator John McCain released this statement after learning the news that Russia had granted asylum to Edward Snowden:
“Russia’s action today is a disgrace and a deliberate effort to embarrass the United States. It is a slap in the face of all Americans. Now is the time to fundamentally rethink our relationship with Putin’s Russia. We need to deal with the Russia that is, not the Russia we might wish for. We cannot allow today’s action by Putin to stand without serious repercussions.