Ever since Edward Snowden revealed last year that the US National Security Agency (NSA) had been secretly recording cyber data from individuals across the entire globe, many advocates of civil liberties have been in a state of outrage. The US government responded to Snowden’s revelations by repealing his citizenship and seeking his arrest. However, after several weeks in which Snowden remained a man without a country, he was able to escape to Russia and was granted temporary asylum.
The NSA spying scandal was a large violation of individual privacy and gave us a better view of the post 9/11 world of paranoia and surveillance. Throughout the years, government officials had stated that they had been collecting information only on individuals who were deemed to be threats to national security. But Snowden showed us that in fact the NSA was keeping track of everyone, even the leaders of US allies such as Angela Merkel of Germany. The debacle caused Obama’s approval ratings to drop and brought a landslide of outrage and ridicule, leading to memes such as this.
Well, as the video of this week shows, President Obama decided to give a speech regarding the NSA surveillance program. As the video explains, even though he admitted that mistakes were made by the extent of surveillance, he still deemed the program to be crucial to US security and highlighted the importance of secrecy regarding the way the NSA operates. The president did explain that certain internal controls would be enacted and that unless extraordinary cases occurred, the government would not spy on allied leaders. However, he did state that the collection of meta data would continue. Over the 6 years that Obama has been the US president, my outlook has been that there is always a big difference between what Obama says and what he does. So its wise to take even this small step to reform with a grain of salt and to not be overly optimistic. As Glenn Greenwald (the journalist who first interviewed Snowden) states, this is just one big PR stunt.
“I can’t in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.”