US surveillance powers, enjoyed by the National Security Agency since the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks, were shut down at midnight on Sunday. Almost two years after Edward Snowden revealed to the Guardian that the Patriot Act was secretly being used to record millions of Americans.
The Patriot Act is likely to be replaced by the USA Freedom Act – the first rollback of NSA surveillance since the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. In the four decades since then, intelligence services have been accumulating huge amounts of power made possible by advancements in technology, a lack of transparency and political and legal oversight as well as the reaction to 9/11 – which accelerated the process.
The bulk collection of phone data began after 9/11 in secret and was later authorised under section 215 of the US Patriot Act. The USA Freedom Act permanently bans the NSA from collecting telephone records in bulk on Americans’ phone calls and introduces new transparency rules for other surveillance activities, but leaves much of the patriot act in place. It will put phone companies in charge of collecting and storing information on phone calls, which the government will only be able to search with specific queries.
Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Senate Republicans, pushed for a five-year extension of the Patriot Act and claimed the USA Freedom Act would leave America vulnerable to terror attacks. However, Rand Paul, who is running for president on a libertarian-leaning agenda, believes the USA Freedom Act does not go far enough in tackling the surveillance abuses revealed by Snowden.
It appears more and more Americans are willing to give Snowden credit for his actions, rather than brand him a traitor.
Vince Vaughn, whilst speaking about American politics including gun laws and the war on drugs, stated:
Edward Snowden is a hero. I like what he did. My idea of treason is that you sell secrets to the enemy. He gave information to the American people.
— CBC-The Current (@TheCurrentCBC) June 1, 2015
But not all:
#VinceVaughn is 100% right on guns and the drug war, 100% wrong on that traitor Snowden.
— Harold (@Nikk1066) June 1, 2015
.@alexwagner it WAS legal when snowden LEAKED IT. no matter if it is changing now.. he is still a traitor and a criminal. not whistle blower
— Kevin (@KevinWalsh222) May 19, 2015
Here’s Snowden speaking to John Oliver regarding passwords and how you can make yourself less hackable. Did you know it takes a computer less than one second to hack the average eight character password?