It’s been exactly two years since Edward Snowden’s first leak about the NSA’s collection of phone metadata appeared in the press, and in an op-ed that appears in Friday’s New York Times, the former NSA contractor reflects on what he’s accomplished. Recalling his time preparing for the first leak with three journalists, he writes, “Privately, there were moments when I worried that we might have put our privileged lives at risk for nothing — that the public would react with indifference, or practiced cynicism, to the revelations. Never have I been so grateful to have been so wrong.”
Snowden goes on to note that the disclosures created a “change in global awareness,” and lauds the legal and technological steps taken against mass surveillance, particularly in the U.S.:
In a single month, the N.S.A.’s invasive call-tracking program was declared unlawful by the courts and disowned by Congress. After a White House-appointed oversight board investigation found that this program had not stopped a single terrorist attack, even the president who once defended its propriety and criticized its disclosure has now ordered it terminated.
This is the power of an informed public.
He concludes that while the right to privacy is still being threatened around the world, the disclosures continue to chip away at the surveillance state (hours earlier, the New York Times and Pro Publica published the results of a joint investigation based on Snowden’s trove of documents):
We are witnessing the emergence of a post-terror generation, one that rejects a worldview defined by a singular tragedy. For the first time since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, we see the outline of a politics that turns away from reaction and fear in favor of resilience and reason. With each court victory, with every change in the law, we demonstrate facts are more convincing than fear. As a society, we rediscover that the value of a right is not in what it hides, but in what it protects.
It’s an enticing thought, but U.S. politicians will probably redouble their fearmongering efforts as we get closer to the 2016 election.