Eight weeks ago a series of explosive leaks blew the hinges off the closet containing the National Security Agency’s skeletons.
“This is more than we’ve learned in the last 35 years,” says Michelle Richardson of the ACLU.
The man behind the leaks, 30-year-old former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, said he couldn’t “in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy” after he exposed the scope of government surveillance programs to The Guardian and The Washington Post. Snowden’s leaks confirmed what civil liberties groups have feared for years: That beneath political rhetoric about the rule of law and respect for fundamental liberties, the U.S. government was indiscriminately gathering information on American citizens under authorities originally meant to protect the country from terrorism.
Snowden has been called a hero by some and a traitor by others, but one thing is clear: Because of evasions by government officials who tried to keep the nature of these surveillance programs secret, the public would never have known about the breadth of government spying had it not been for Snowden’s leaks, which have dramatically shifted the politics of surveillance in the U.S. Congress.