On June 5, 2013, the first of the stories based on Edward Snowden’s documents were published, creating a firestorm of attention around what had been a vast secret data-gathering operation conducted y the NSA under the maxim of ‘collect it all’, where they sought to gather up everyone’s communications. I went back to my own archives to see what I had written then on June 6, June 6, June 7, and June 8 and it was clear from the very beginning that this was a major scandal. Snowden revealed his identity on June 9, surprising everyone by being a young, soft-spoken person with deep principles..
What he revealed was a set of government organizations in the UK, US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand that followed the precedent set by the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover of trying to collect all information about everybody, except that now they were doing it electronically.
Although Snowden’s critics in the early days were many and accused him of being arrogant, conceited, grating, grandiose narcissistic, a clown, and insufferable, they have been quieted as it became pretty clear that he was clearly acting in what he thought was the public’s interest, just like the people who burgled the FBI offices in 1971 and exposed its wrongdoings.
It must grate on these people that Snowden’s actions have had such an impact, forcing governments on the defensive, spawning a slew of new efforts at encryption to protect people’s privacy, exposing president Obama as a total hypocrite when it comes to transparency, and made even the US Congress take action, though there is yet still much to do.
And the Snowden revelations keep coming, with another new one just this week that the “NSA’s warrantless surveillance of the Internet has actually expanded under the Obama administration.”
So happy anniversary, Edward Snowden! You can rightly bask in the fact that you have made an impact.