NSA leaker Edward Snowden penned an op ed in the New York Times on Thursday, June 4th. The op ed is in essence a victory lap for Snowden, who says that the recent ending of the NSA domestic spying program in the U.S. is a “profound” moment. Snowden notes: “Ending the mass surveillance of private phone calls under the Patriot Act is a historic victory for the rights of every citizen…”
In his op ed, however, the former CIA officer and NSA contractor goes on to say that individual rights are still threatened in the U.S. and across the globe by dangerously intrusive governments. “Though we have come a long way, the right to privacy — the foundation of the freedoms enshrined in the United States Bill of Rights — remains under threat. Some of the world’s most popular online services have been enlisted as partners in the N.S.A.’s mass surveillance programs, and technology companies are being pressured by governments around the world to work against their customers rather than for them.”
Snowden takes a swipe at Russia
Snowden also takes a swing at his new home in his op ed, alleging Russia is “arbitrarily passing” draconian new anti-privacy laws.
Of note, Snowden fled to Russia after exposing massive domestic spying (and spying on allies) two years ago, eventually being awarded a three-year residency permit..
That said, Russia has also been on a major crackdown of internet and media freedoms over the last few years, banning foreign ownership of media firms, and drafting a series of new laws to restrict the promotion ‘extremism’ that apply to bloggers as well as news sites and other media publications. As a part of a growing global trend, Russia has also passed a new law that will require companies to store personal data on Russian citizens in the country. After Putin’s approval, that bill will become Russian law in September of this year.
Also criticizes governments in other countries
Snowden used his op ed as a platform to warn that many countries are using terrorist attacks as a reason justify invasive new surveillance powers for their intelligence agencies. In his piece, he noted Canada, France and Australia had recently gone down this slippery slope, and he also criticized U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron’s plan to increase government surveillance powers.
He points out: “Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain recently mused, “Do we want to allow a means of communication between people which we cannot read?” He soon found his answer, proclaiming that “for too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: As long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone.”
At the turning of the millennium, few imagined that citizens of developed democracies would soon be required to defend the concept of an open society against their own leaders.”
Snowden ends his op ed on a positive note: “With each court victory, with every change in the law, we demonstrate facts are more convincing than fear. As a society, we rediscover that the value of a right is not in what it hides, but in what it protects.”