What Snowden has wrought

New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen writes about what he calls the ‘Snowden effect’ and lists all the things that has resulted from the revelations that Edward Snowden has made about the NSA.

It is highly telling that the highly secretive president Obama has been put on the defensive and forced to discuss these things as a result of the revelations and amusing to see him act as if he always wanted to discuss these issues, when in reality he has moved heaven and Earth to increase secrecy and prosecute whistleblowers.

Even Obama’s sudden press conference last Friday was humorous in a grim way as he announced some minor changes in the way the surveillance would operate. He implied that these changes were initiated in May (note his careful choice of a date before the June release by Snowden) and that what Snowden did was prematurely release it. Kevin Drum finds that claim risible, saying that Obama seemed to be treating us like five-year olds.

But there is one group that will buy it and that is the captive beltway media, the group that Obama was talking directly to and that the White House knows how to manipulate. Gregory Ferenstein lists three important questions that the reporters should have asked but didn’t. They are:

1. Do foreign governments swap information with one another to skirt spying laws?
2. Have the NSA programs ever actually stopped an attack?
3. Why is it OK to monitor activity, even if it’s not read?

Snowden’s biggest fear was that his disclosures would be ignored or even greeted with a big yawn. That has not happened. Whether they will lead to major changes remains to be seen but there is no question that he has been dramatically successful in driving the conversation into areas where it had never gone before.


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