The USA Freedom Act has been praised by politicians as a necessary reform to the NSA’s bulk phone collection program that protects civil liberties while maintaining national security. Although debate in Congress delayed passage of the bill, many view the reforms as a necessary first step in changing the country’s surveillance practices.
Yet Edward Snowden still remains hidden in Russia, wanted by the government to face espionage charges. The reforms that are being celebrated in Washington would have never come about were it not for Snowden’s leaks, yet the federal government still wants to see him prosecuted.
Secretary of State John Kerry has claimed Snowden “damaged his country very significantly” and should “man up and come back to the United States” to stand trial. Snowden has indicated that he would like to return to his home country, but he’s balked at actually doing so out of fear that he would not face a fair trial. Given the U.S.’s track record with whistleblowers like Bradley Manning, those concerns are valid.
“Of course Edward is often homesick,” Snowden’s lawyer Anatoly Kucherena told the Los Angeles Times in March. “But the last thing he wants is to travel to the United States to be immediately imprisoned for an indefinite period of trial when the government openly calls him a traitor.”
Although he hasn’t returned to the U.S., Snowden has remained in the public consciousness with appearances on television and in newspaper editorials.
His latest piece, published by The New York Times, also recognizes the USA Freedom Act as a significant legislative step forward. “Ending the mass surveillance of private phone calls under the Patriot Act is a historic victory for the rights of every citizen, but it is only the latest product of a change in global awareness,” Snowden wrote, before citing examples of how governments around the world have been enacting similar changes to combat unjust surveillance.
Snowdon's article also acknowledges, as politicians like Sen. Rand Paul have been arguing, that the USA Freedom Act does not do enough. “As you read this online, the United States government makes a note,” Snowden writes about his own article.
The Obama administration has been hypocritical in its response to Snowden’s leaks. It publicly berates him for betraying the government, yet praises the reforms of the USA Freedom Act.
“Enactment of this legislation will strengthen civil liberty safeguards and provide greater public confidence in these programs,” Obama said, reports NPR. “I am gratified that Congress has finally moved forward with this sensible reform legislation.”
The public would not even be aware that reform was needed were it not for Snowden’s disclosures. Snowden worked diligently and carefully with journalists to ensure U.S. national security was not compromised as a result of the leaks, and he’s repeatedly proved that he has been acting in the nation’s best interest.
Snowdon is almost the opposite of a traitor. If the U.S. government is going to claim that reform to the NSA was necessary, it should be thanking Snowden rather than criminalizing him.
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