Andrea Peterson writes: “For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished,” former NSA contractor Edward Snowden told my Washington Post colleague Barton Gellman in Moscow this month. Snowden went on to explain that he had “already won” because the journalists working from the documents he secreted away from the NSA are giving the public a chance to weigh in on surveillance policies.
But while it’s not quite flight-suit level deception, calling the current state of affairs mission accomplished is a significant change in the scope of Snowden’s ambitions compared to when he first stepped forward as the source of the NSA documents. In a video interview with the Guardian released shortly after he stepped out of the shadows, he espoused many of the same hopes about the public having input on the secret machinations of intelligence agencies. But he also gave a much more lofty goal: substantive policy change.
The greatest fear that I have regarding the outcome for America of these disclosures is that nothing will change. People will see in the media all of these disclosures. They’ll know the lengths that the government is going to grant themselves powers unilaterally to create greater control over American society and global society. But they won’t be willing to take the risks necessary to stand up and fight to change things to force their representatives to actually take a stand in their interests.
And the months ahead, the years ahead it’s only going to get worse until eventually there will be a time where policies will change because the only thing that restricts the activities of the surveillance state are policy.
So far, Snowden’s “greatest fear” has come true. Public opinion over his disclosures has been divided and no significant policy changes to NSA surveillance have emerged. And the administration is standing by the status quo despite the lack of evidence that it has been effective at its stated goal of halting terrorist attacks. [Continue reading…]
As I have written previously, one of the easiest ways of measuring how effective exposure of NSA operations has been will be in terms of its budget and its size. My expectation is that by those two counts the NSA will continue to grow. Indeed, the agency will argue to Congress that this growth is necessitated by the leaks.