In Tom Keane’s June 11 op-ed column “Saving democracy,” he writes that Edward Snowden will “be thought an American hero.” Maybe. Maybe not. But what all of this should show people is how much Congress has been letting us down.
The Foreign Intelligence Service Act of 1978, or FISA, was enacted and amended to authorize surveillance that protects Americans from foreign powers and terrorists. The Snowden case should really be shedding light on the FISA court’s approving the National Security Agency’s Prism program and others like it. More than 99 percent of applications for surveillance were approved between 2003 and 2012. Clearly this law has turned into rubber-stamping.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has called Snowden a traitor and ordered a top-to-bottom review of intelligence agencies’ procedures. Yet it was her own committee in May of 2012 that “reviewed the oversight mechanisms in place to protect privacy, including reports from the Department of Justice, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the National Security Agency, and the FBI,” and recommended extending FISA amendments.
This story shouldn’t be about Snowden’s leak or heroism — it should be about Congress allowing these programs to happen in the first place.