To mark the one-year anniversary of NSA revelations, several privacy and whistleblower groups have taken a look back at what we’ve learned since Edward Snowden blew the whistle on mass surveillance.
The American Civil Liberties Union created a video, entitled, ‘The NSA knew our secrets. One year later, we know theirs.’
The ACLU also published a letter from Edward Snowden, remarking on what’s happened thus far and encouraging further action:
In the long, dark shadow cast by the security state, a free society cannot thrive.
That’s why one year ago I brought evidence of these irresponsible activities to the public — to spark the very discussion the U.S. government didn’t want the American people to have. With every revelation, more and more light coursed through a National Security Agency that had grown too comfortable operating in the dark and without public consent. Soon incredible things began occurring that would have been unimaginable years ago. A federal judge in open court called an NSA mass surveillance program likely unconstitutional and “almost Orwellian.” Congress and President Obama have called for an end to the dragnet collection of the intimate details of our lives. Today legislation to begin rolling back the surveillance state is moving in Congress after more than a decade of impasse.
Finally, the ACLU has a timeline of the revelations thus far.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Katitza Rodriguez recounted what we’ve learned about various NSA surveillance programs, and concludes:
…now that a year has passed it’s clear that we need to update both our global technical infrastructure and local laws, consistent with long-standing international human rights standards, in order to regain any reasonable degree of privacy. Specifically, we must end mass surveillance. Politicians in every country need to stand up to the NSA’s incursions on their territory; the United States needs to reform its laws to recognize the privacy rights of innocent foreigners, and the international community needs to set clear standards which makes any state conducting mass surveillance a pariah.
The Government Accountability Project’s Dylan Blaylock, in a piece titled, ‘On One-Year Anniversary of Snowden Disclosures, IC Contractors Lack Whistleblower Protections,’ writes:
One of the great lessons of the Snowden disclosures has been that members of Congress have not been adequately overseeing these programs. Contractors on intelligence operations must have real protection for legitimate whistleblower disclosures made to Congress, congressional staff with appropriate security clearance, or government watchdogs. Further, it is not adequate only to protect disclosures made to the intelligence committees. Such a monopoly in information needed to conduct congressional oversight does not exist in any other context in the federal government.
There cannot be any doubt about the consequences from congressional action, or inaction, on whistleblower rights. Without authentic legal protections for making disclosures to Congress and government watchdogs, enforcement of the Constitution and privacy rights will remain an honor system for agencies that have been secretly abusing their power. To identify government abuse, Congress must extend best practice whistleblower protections to IC contractor workers.