So Time magazine has chosen Pope Francis as its Person of the Year. I can’t say that I am surprised. It is just the kind of choice they like, that will generate interest and perhaps hits and sells magazines, but not arouse any great controversy.
The newness and high visibility of the pope enabled them to avoid the awkwardness of having to decide what to do about Edward Snowden because if there is one person who has had a massive impact on world events, it is undoubtedly he. Snowden was relegated to runner-up, which must have come as a huge relief to the authoritarians.
In a profile of Snowden and his revelations, Michael Scherer inserts this extraordinary statement:
The NSA, for its part, has always prided itself on being different from the intelligence services of authoritarian regimes, and it has long collected far less information on Americans than it could. The programs Snowden revealed in U.S. surveillance agencies, at least since the 1970s, are subject to a strict, regularly audited system of checks and balances and a complex set of rules that restrict the circumstances under which the data gathered on Americans can be reviewed. As a general rule, a court order is still expected to review the content of American phone calls and e-mail messages. Unclassified talking points sent home with NSA employees for Thanksgiving put it this way: “The NSA performs its mission the right way—lawful, compliant and in a way that protects civil liberties and privacy.” Indeed, none of the Snowden disclosures published to date have revealed any ongoing programs that clearly violate current law, at least in a way that any court has so far identified. Parts of all three branches of government had been briefed and had given their approval. [My italics-MS]
Surely Scherer is being disingenuous here. What we have clearly seen is the façade of law-like behavior in which the government has used evasions, half-truths, extreme distortions of language, and outright lies to claim legality while engaging in widespread and illegal activities.