Assessing Snowden's legacy, five years on

Originally published at:


Pardon Snowden


This is also my main takeaway. Yes we are more aware today and that’s good. But fundamentally nothing has changed beyond some cosmetic work. An example, last year here in the Netherlands the government introduced a new intelligence services law and it was defeated in a public referendum. Despite this clear rejection, the government made some small changes that didn’t really matter and passed it anyway. This was partly because our referendums were toothless but also because the intelligence world just doesn’t care about how we feel.


Even before Snowden, the existence of a probably illegal mass surveillance program was known, especially since the disclosure of the so-called NSA room at an AT&T facility in San Francisco. So it is true as the article says that “Snowden ended up proving things rather than bringing it to light.” Not to say that what he did wasn’t important: it had an impact.

It is still very concerning that mass surveillance continues, and that so much of it is actually legal. The good news I guess is, NSA reportedly can’t retain or process the vast majority of what they collect. The bad news still is though, they collect a lot.


Seems like I haven’t seen any stories recently about gov-mandated back doors. And come to think of it, that’s scary as hell.

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Too bad the attorney made that comment, b/c it’s only partly true. And a small “partly” at that. He not only proved, but brought a shit ton of “things” to light.

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I’m not sure whether I would know what a Warrant Canary was without his influence. Would there be a Tor, and would it be as popular and significant? It’s a fact that I am far more conscious of what I say online, and how I qualify anything that might be misconstrued. It also seems likely that I trust what I hear from three letter agency reps substantially less than I did before this came about.

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A lot of us in the tech world suspected, but most everybody else had a hard time understanding how much data there was to collect, and certainly had no idea that anybody would even try. The biggest weasel word was “metadata” which was used to downplay the amount of data and it’s significance.


In 1998 or so when I was halfway into college, I was “that guy” who would go off about things like Echelon and the UKUSA/Five Eyes arrangement, etc.

Nobody gave a fuck. Kinda seemed to think I was a little crazy.

Too late now, fuckers. :face_with_symbols_over_mouth:

Tor existed long before Snowden, though he did help show why it’s important.

One impact of the Snowden disclosures is that I wanted to follow the story. However, as an NSA employee I had to avoid sites that would display the classified files. I settled on Boing Boing as a news site that gave a good summary. I have read Boing Boing ever since.

The NSA warned its employees to never look at classified material on the Internet, because if the NSA ever suspected that an employee was leaking classified information, it would confiscate the employee’s home computer and check it for classified material. Any classified material, even if only a temp file obviously downloaded from the Internet, would count as evidence of guilt. A few months after the Snowden disclosures, the director of NSA dropped that rule.

Cory Doctorow said, “The Snowden docs did prompt significant – but complex and wonky – changes to the legal framework for mass surveillance.” The surveillance laws were complex and wonky before those changes.


They probably realized they couldn’t stop people from reading NYT or WaPo.

Snowden disclosed some blatantly bad stuff NSA shouldn’t have been doing. My problem with him was that he didn’t have a clue of everything he acquired. He just hoovered up a bunch of things, many of which he didn’t know what he was grabbing, and piece-mealed it out.

For example, this Snowden disclosure

I’m sorry, how does it violate 4th Amendment rights if the US and the UK access data from Israeli jet fighters?

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