Unless you follow United States’ politics, you probably don’t know who Mitch McConnell is.
The Intercept recently suggested that the Senate Majority Leader would do “just about anything” to make sure former NSA contractor Edward Snowden — who McConnell and fellow Republicans disdainfully refer to as “Eric Snowden” — would not be vindicated.
If that was McConnell’s goal, he lost.
Members of his own party prevented him from defeating or weakening the USA Freedom Act, the bill reforming Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act that President Obama signed into law on Tuesday night. It becomes the first legislation that will limit U.S. surveillance in decades. The Freedom of the Press Foundation noted that while the bill “has many significant flaws” it is also “historic.” And it’s very likely this would never have happened if Snowden hadn’t handed over data to reporters that revealed the enormous, untold scope of the U.S. surveillance state.
The first of these revelations surfaced on June 5, 2013 previewing the first full story published in The Guardian the next day. That first story revealed a court order that specifically addressed the bulk collection of phone metadata that was reformed by the USA Freedom Act. And the revelations keep coming.
“Privately, there were moments when I worried that we might have put our privileged lives at risk for nothing — that the public would react with indifference, or practiced cynicism, to the revelations,” Snowden wrote in a New York Times editorial marking the anniversary. “Never have I been so grateful to have been so wrong.”
There’s no doubt that the culture of the internet has been changed by what Snowden helped to show us. Innocence has been lost as we’ve realized that the greatest innovations of our lifetime could be turned into the most effective spying tools in human history.
People are now far more concerned about how their data could be used by governments and corporations. 91% of Americans feel that people have lost control over how data is collected and used by companies. And companies are responding. Apple’s Tim Cook is championing encryption and even Facebook is trying to get into the act. Citizen Four, the movie about the revelations, even won an Oscar. Some Americans are even saying that it’s time to let Snowden to come home.
But more reforms and vigilance are needed. As The Onion succinctly noted:
We want to do our part by reminding decision makers that we’re still waiting for more Snowdens and more laws that guarantee that law-abiding people around the world can expect privacy, however they communicate, without exceptions. It’s still time to act, as our Mikko Hypponen first said in October of 2013.
[Snowden image by Mike Mozart | Flickr]
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