U.S. Lawmakers Finally Credit Edward Snowden for NSA Reforms… Sort Of

The U.S. Senate passed the USA Freedom Act on Tuesday in a 67-32 vote. The vote came 36 hours after controversial provisions in the USA PATRIOT Act expired. The new law renews these provisions, including the much debated Section 215, but supporters say it significantly reins in the government’s surveillance powers.

“It’s an historic moment,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), one of the bill’s authors. “It’s the first major overhaul in government surveillance laws in decades and adds significant privacy protections for the American people.”

According to The Hill:

“The USA Freedom Act ends the National Security Agency’s (NSA) bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records, limits other ways the government collects large amounts of records and adds new transparency measures to the way the government collects information.”

While there are certainly skeptics, some civil liberty groups, like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, say it is a step in the right direction.

In the wake of the legislative battle that was dragged on for weeks, the media is now talking about the winners and losers, but a name that hasn’t received much credit from political talking heads or lawmakers for making this debate possible is finally being acknowledged for his role in the USA Freedom Act’s passage: former NSA contractor and whistle-blower Edward Snowden.

The Huffington Post reports:

“Because of Edward Snowden, there’s a perception — which is not true — but there’s a perception that we’re invading people’s privacy,” Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), explained last month. “This would presumably take care of that,” he added, referring to the USA Freedom Act, which he voted against in 2014 but now supports as a better alternative to a complete lapse of the Patriot Act. 

 

Nelson isn’t the only Washington lawmaker who has struggled to articulate Snowden’s influence on the debate that has kept senators up late and away from home for two weekends now. It’s hard to give credit to someone you want imprisoned. But on Sunday night, as tempers frayed, vote-counters strategized, and Rand Paul talked, senators could no longer avoid talking about the ex-NSA contractor’s disclosures. 

 

“It’s why we’re here,” Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chair of the Senate foreign relations committee and a fierce NSA defender, said of the Snowden disclosures. “People began creating a myth around it. That did occur. The public discourse around it created a myth about what this program is and what it isn’t.”

As the HuffPo’s headline suggests, Edward Snowden was always the elephant in the room. Lawmakers knew he was the reason the USA Freedom Act was debated in the first place. However, while some members of Congress are willing to acknowledge his role, they still want to minimize his legitimacy as much as they can. Pride can be hard thing to swallow sometimes.

Read the full Huffington Post article here.

Image: Former NSA contractor and whistle-blower Edward Snowden