Edward Snowden has been widely condemned by American government officials, but he has spurred a searing political debate in Congress about the reach and intrusiveness of the National Security Agency. Moreover, Mr. Snowden’s revelations are directly responsible for the recent decision by Congress and the President to limit the compilation of meta data for every citizen’s phone calls.
To many average Americans, Mr. Snowden is a hero who has chosen to stand up for the land he loves and stop its denigration by over-zealous intelligence agencies. Mr. Snowden has forsaken his family and many creature comforts to uncover illegal activities such as the use of mass sweeps of the population without any corresponding warrant. Those in power continue to bemoan the loss of these capabilities, but they clearly extend beyond the government’s proper authority.
Even a Republican like Rand Paul has stood up for the right of privacy for every law-abiding American citizen, and renewal of the strict line that used to separate criminal investigations from foreign intelligence. That line is starting to blur again as the NSA seeks to control foreign hackers by similar sweeps of the Internet. And Mr. Snowden has once again confounded his critics by revealing this overreach in an attempt to stop it.
The accretion of authority by the federal government can be accepted for critical national needs such as healthcare and immigration control. But its ability to cling to special temporary authorities allowed in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 must be scaled back to restore the land we love.