Edward Snowden’s Disclosures Have Put a Target on the Patriot Act

The NSA whistleblower’s revelations stirred up lukewarm media outrage at best, but have raised serious considerations of security and liberty in Congress.

Much of the media dropped the ball on Snowden’s revelations, but a few members of Congress have picked it up. (Photo:Bobby Yip/Reuters)

Jul 25, 2013· 2 MIN READ
Matt Fleischer is a TakePart contributor who was awarded a Fund for Investigative Journalism grant for his series “Dangerous Jails.”

When NSA leaker Edward Snowden first revealed the sweeping extent of America’s global surveillance and data collection operations, and the lack of accountability over how that information is used, his disclosure was met with little more than an exasperated sigh from some of the most esteemed voices in the so-called liberal American media.

Jeffrey Toobin flat out called for Snowden to be incarcerated in the New Yorker.

Any marginally attentive citizen, much less NSA employee or contractor, knows that the entire mission of the agency is to intercept electronic communications, Perhaps [Snowden] thought that the NSA operated only outside the United States; in that case, he hadn’t been paying very close attention. In any event, Snowden decided that he does not “want to live in a society” that intercepts private communications. His latter-day conversion is dubious.... He is a grandiose narcissist who deserves to be in prison.

Even the great David Simon, creator of The Wire, seemed dismissive of Snowden’s revelations:

You would think that the government was listening in to the secrets of 200 million Americans from the reaction and the hyperbole being tossed about. And you would think that rather than a legal court order which is an inevitable consequence of legislation that we drafted and passed, something illegal had been discovered to the government’s shame.

Nope. Nothing of the kind.

In fairness to Snowden, neither Simon, nor anyone else knows how the NSA’s intercepted information is being used. Which is exactly why Snowden’s revelations are troubling.

Hard news journalists, by profession, should be able to anticipate the need to secretly communicate with government officials to expose wrongdoing. That informed fourth-estate commentators can dismiss the notion that the U.S. government might misuse a blanket intercept of electronic communications seems wildly naïve—or a bit cynical, depending upon your worldview.

More than a month after the initial Snowden-mania, more-nuanced perspectives have come into focus, and the implications of the former contractor’s whistleblowing have begun to receive serious consideration.

For seemingly the first time in recent memory, lawmakers—rather than progressive media usual suspects—are seriously challenging the security and surveillance practices of the United States.

An unlikely bipartisan political effort brought by Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and liberal stalwart John Conyers (D-Mich.) to defund the NSA’s surveillance program was narrowly defeated 217 to 205 in the House of Representatives this week—a disappointing but impressive loss, given the level of rancor in the House over anything bipartisan.

An even bolder effort is being undertaken by New Jersey Representative Rush Holt; the democrat recently promised in an Asbury Park Press editorial to introduce a bill to end the infamous Bush-era Patriot Act.

“My bill would restore the probable cause-based warrant requirement for any surveillance against an American citizen being proposed on the basis of an alleged threat to the nation,” he wrote of his impending effort.

Holt also promised his bill would provide enhanced legal protections for government whistleblowers who expose wrongdoing.

Holt, incidentally, is no political-pandering intellectual lightweight. Holding a Ph.D. in physics, he once competed against the supercomputer Watson in a game of Jeopardy, and actually won—becoming the first human being to accomplish that feat.

Now he’s taken on an even more-dauting feat; putting the Patriot Act surveillance state genie back into the bottle.

Is the Patriot Act necessary to keep America’s liberty secure? Discuss in COMMENTS.