As happens frequently, persons who deserve credit for ideas, inventions or warnings do not receive credit. They are the people whose early actions slowly start a movement that reaches a tipping point that then becomes synonymous with the name of someone else.
So it is with Edward Snowden and the British newspaper The Guardian.
Snowden was the not the first employee of the National Security Administration (NSA) to warn of the agency’s vast spy operations. Nor was the British newspaper The Guardian the first publication to reveal such activities.
The first NSA whistleblower was Perry Fellwock. He alerted the press 40 years ago about the agency’s growing surveillance operations, which were published in a 1972 issue of Ramparts magazine.
USA Today reported in 2006 details of NSA’s massive collection of American’s telephone calls but there was mute reaction.
William Binney worked 30 years for NSA and tried to warn Congress and the Defense Department. But he was ignored and threatened.
Other NSA veterans also failed to effect reaction or reform. Thomas Drake, William Binney, and J. Kirk Wiebe all tried to strip NSA of its secrecy only to be ignored and rebuffed.
Two years ago this month, British journalist Glenn Greenwald published in The Guardian his first report that NSA had been collecting data on Americans’ telephone calls since 2001. Much of his information came from former NSA analyst Edward Snowden, who stole agency documents then fled the country.
In October of 2013, the German news magazine Spiegel--using similar information–revealed that NSA’s spying included listening to the communications of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other foreign leaders.
The subsequent furor and national debate culminated last week in congressional passage of the USA Freedom Act. The new law ends controversial section 215 of The Patriot Act that permitted the government to collect bulk data on Americans electronic communications.
President Obama signed the USA Freedom Act June 02. The new law ends the government’s collection of citizen data, but still allows federal agencies to obtain the same information kept by major telecommunication companies like AT&T and Verizon.
Media and pundits term these developments as the post-Snowden era. He is cited as the one responsible for the change in legislation regulating the NSA. I reject that label.
Snowden claims he leaked agency documents to force a national debate about government surveillance of U.S. citizens. Then he flees America and seeks refuge in Russia—a nation whose spying and oppression are notorious. His hypocrisy is repugnant.
I acknowledge Glenn Greenwald and The Guardian for their contributions. And I am willing to accept the NSA debate and subsequent legislation as the Post-Guardian Era. But I also credit earlier U.S. media efforts even if they failed to spark an appropriate response by elected officials.
However, if we want to praise American heroes for revealing the overreach of NSA spying, Thomas Drake, William Binney, J. Kirk Wiebe and Perry Fellwock deserve our gratitude.
Edward Snowden does not.