Veteran D.C. Attorney: ‘Without Edward Snowden, Our System Could Have Failed’
The efforts to reform the way the U.S. government gathers intelligence indicate that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s disclosures “have had the impact that motivated him,” writes Ronald Goldfarb, who served in the Justice Department of the Kennedy administration, at Time magazine.
Goldfarb is the author of “After Snowden: Privacy, Secrecy, and Security in the Information Age.”
Goldfarb summarized the recent federal circuit court ruling against bulk telephone metadata collection as follows:
In a 97-page unanimous opinion in a case entitled ACLU v. Clapper, et. al., the prestigious 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City reversed an earlier trial court ruling, and held that s. 215’s bulk telephone data program is subject to judicial review. In the core of this opinion, Judge Gerard Lynch wrote that “the program exceeds the scope of what Congress has authorized.” The opinion discussed the history of the earlier Church Committee hearings about historic abusive surveillance practices of intelligence agencies, and the evolution of the FISA Act (1978) allowing secret ex parte proceedings, and the Patriot Act now under review in Congress. …
The circuit court ruled that the government’s position—that its standard for collecting metadata conforms with prevailing search and seizure law—was wrong. “Unprecedented and unwarranted” were the words used. The court found that the “sheer volume of information sought is staggering,” and that the amount and nature of the data collected was qualitatively too broad and vague, neither within proper bounds nor limited to data required for fighting the war on terror. The government’s procedures, the court ruled, are “inconsistent with the very concept of an investigation”, lacking specificity, relevance, time limitations.
The court concluded that “to allow the government to collect phone records only because they may be relevant to a possible authorized investigation in the future “is impermissible, irreconcilable with the statute.” Congress can’t be deemed to have approved a program of which many members were unaware, and which was “shrouded in secrecy,” the court added, agreeing with critics that congressional oversight of national security surveillance procedures since 9/11 has been lacking. In an observation critical of the process of congressional oversight in national security matters, the court remarked that suggesting legislative approval of the questionable practices “would ignore reality.”
Edward Snowden must be smiling today as he remains in his prolonged exile in Russia. All the reforms of the excesses of data surveillance he revealed indicate that his disclosures have had the impact that motivated him. Top UN officials have questioned the practices of member states which violate core privacy rights; reformative laws are pending in Congress; a White House panel has called for 46 reforms of prevailing practices; Congressional oversight of national security procedures has been questioned by prestigious experts in the field. None of this would have happened if Snowden had not committed his audacious act of civil disobedience. His influence has been historic. His answer on German TV to those who argue that Snowden is a traitor: “If I am a traitor, who did I betray? I gave all my information to the American public.”
Read Goldfarb’s comments in full here.
— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.
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