The famous (and in some circles infamous) former CIA infrastructure analyst Edward Snowden has written an op-ed for the New York Times about what he calls “a post-terror generation” that’s “finally standing up for the right to privacy.”
Snowden first explains that when he sounded the alarm about the NSA’s ridiculously broad spying program he was persecuted and deemed a traitor (which is why he had to flee to Russia). In the years since, though, a lot has changed:
Two years on, the difference is profound. In a single month, the N.S.A.’s invasive call-tracking program was declared unlawful by the courts and disowned by Congress. After a White House-appointed oversight board investigation found that this program had not stopped a single terrorist attack, even the president who once defended its propriety and criticized its disclosure has now ordered it terminated.
This is the power of an informed public.
Ending the mass surveillance of private phone calls under the Patriot Act is a historic victory for the rights of every citizen, but it is only the latest product of a change in global awareness. Since 2013, institutions across Europe have ruled similar laws and operations illegal and imposed new restrictions on future activities.
The reason that Congress turned against the original Patriot Act is, of course, the fact that the public demanded new rules. American voters would never have done so if they hadn’t known about it – which is why the entire world should be grateful to Snowden for what he has done.
Many conservative blogs called Snowden a traitor from day one, but the opposite is true: he’s a modern day hero who had the courage to destroy his own career in the United States in order to expose a highly secretive and unconstitutional government program run amok. He could’ve played it safe by keeping his mouth shut, but instead decided to risk his own liberty in order to inform the American (and foreign) public about what was going on.
In return he had the entire power of the state turned against him. He was literally forced to flee and still risks arrest if he travels to a different country (that is willing to cooperate with America).
It’s rather ironic that he continues to be treated as a traitor since, by reforming the original Patriot Act, Congress has basically admitted he was right. Remember: many members of the Senate and the House of Representatives wouldn’t even have known the details of the NSA’s spying program if Snowden hadn’t intervened.
That’s why it’s time for America to stop treating Snowden as the biggest enemy of the state the world has ever seen. He isn’t a second Benedict Arnold, but a hero who did what had to be done, even though it could and eventually would cost him dearly.