They call it the “Snowden effect.” Whatever you think of fugitive former
Among other changes, Feinstein would have the government make public on an annual basis the number of Americans’ phone numbers “submitted as queries of the NSA database,” as well as the number of warrants obtained by the
The improvements Feinstein proposes fall short of abolishing the bulk collection of telephone metadata unrelated to a specific terrorism investigation. But would even these refinements be on the table if Snowden hadn’t released information about the metadata program? Would President
And without Snowden’s revelations, which continued Wednesday with a report in the Guardian about a versatile search program called XKeyscore, would the
As they say in England, not bloody likely.
Even Obama, in the aftermath of the first Snowden leaks, said that he welcomed a debate over surveillance policy and whether it infringed on civil liberties. Without Snowden, that debate wouldn't exist.
For that reason, some of Snowden's supporters argue that he should be spared prosecution or even be given a presidential pardon. (Talk about "not bloody likely.")
That doesn't necessarily follow, for several reasons. Even if you don't accept the notion that those who engage in civil disobedience should be willing to accept punishment, there is the question of whether some of Snowden's leaks went beyond blowing the whistle on surveillance of Americans to compromise purely foreign intelligence.
But the "Snowden effect" is real, and salutary.