TIME White House

White House Responds to Petition Urging Obama to Pardon Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden
Uncredited—AP FILE - This file photo image made from video released by WikiLeaks on Friday, Oct. 11, 2013, shows former National Security Agency systems analyst Edward Snowden smiles during a presentation ceremony for the Sam Adams Award in Moscow, Russia.

“He should come home to the United States, and be judged by a jury of his peers"

The White House responded to a petition calling for President Obama to pardon Edward Snowden on Tuesday by calling for the former National Security Agency contractor to “come home to the United States, and be judged by a jury of his peers.”

Snowden, who released classified government documents detailing the widespread surveillance activities of the U.S. intelligence agencies, fled to Russia soon after the documents were released. The White House commissioned Lisa Monaco, the president’s advisor on homeland security and counterterrorism, to pen the official response, which was posted to the White House’s We the People website.

“If he felt his actions were consistent with civil disobedience, then he should do what those who have taken issue with their own government do: Challenge it, speak out, engage in a constructive act of protest, and — importantly — accept the consequences of his actions,” Monaco writes. “He should come home to the United States, and be judged by a jury of his peers — not hide behind the cover of an authoritarian regime. Right now, he’s running away from the consequences of his actions.”

Snowden’s Russian attorney said in March that the whistleblower would be willing to return to the United States if he was “given a guarantee of a legal and impartial trial.”

A petition to have Snowden pardoned was launched in 2013 and gained a total of 167,954 signatures—well over the 100,000 required to warrant an official response from the White House. “Edward Snowden is a national hero and should be immediately issued a full, free, and absolute pardon for any crimes he has committed or may have committed related to blowing the whistle on secret NSA surveillance programs,” the petition reads.

The White House responded to the petition on Tuesday as a part of a wider effort to clear the backlog of petitions awaiting response on We the People and alter the way the White House responds.

TIME Edward Snowden

Snowden Documentary Filmmaker Laura Poitras Is Suing the U.S. Government

Her treatment at airports was 'Kafkaesque,' she says

For the past six years, Laura Poitras has always had a homecoming party.

Each time the award-winning video journalist has attempted to re-enter the United States, border patrol has detained her, according to a lawsuit she filed against the United States government on Monday. That’s more than 50 occasions in total.

Why? That’s her question, too. Poitras, creator of the Oscar-, Pulitzer-, and Academy Award-winning documentary Citizenfourwhich chronicles the exploits of the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden—desires to know why security agents repeatedly harassed her during that period when she was working on her films.

Apparently, she had been told during one of many hours-long detainments that her name appeared on a national security threat database. After filing Freedom of Information Act requests for her records, she received few clarifying details. So she’s taking legal action.

Poitras will take the departments of justice and homeland security, as well as the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, to court. She has demanded access to the surveillance records that pertain to her.

“I’m filing this lawsuit because the government uses the U.S. border to bypass the rule of law,” Poitras said in a statement. “This simply should not be tolerated in a democracy. I am also filing this suit in support of the countless other less high-profile people who have also been subjected to years of Kafkaesque harassment at the borders. We have a right to know how this system works and why we are targeted.”

TIME Foreign Policy

Eric Holder: Edward Snowden Might Return to U.S.

US-POLITICS-HOLDER
Saul Loeb—AFP/Getty Images Attorney General Eric Holder walks from Air Force One after arriving with US President Barack Obama at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, March 6, 2015.

The former Attorney General said "the possibility exists"

A deal returning NSA leaker Edward Snowden to the U.S. is not entirely out of the question, according to Eric Holder.

The former U.S. Attorney General told Yahoo News, “I certainly think there could be a basis for a resolution that everybody could ultimately be satisfied with” to return Snowden from his current asylum in Moscow. “I think the possibility exists,” he said.

Holder, who is going back to work at the law firm Covington & Burling, where he worked before serving as Attorney General, said that Snowden’s actions “spurred a necessary debate” on surveillance in America.

“We are in a different place as a result of the Snowden disclosures,” he said.

[Yahoo News]

TIME NSA Surveillance

NSA Spying Is Going to Cost the Tech Sector Much More Than We Thought

A man is seen near cyber code and the U.S. National Security Agency logo in this photo illustration taken in Sarajevo
© Dado Ruvic / Reuters—REUTERS

The economic reverberations will ‘likely far exceed’ an initial $35 billion estimate, a report says

NSA surveillance is going to cost the U.S. tech sector a lot more than originally thought.

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), a Washington, D.C. -based think tank that advocates for policies that nurture technology innovation, has released a new report in which it raises its previous estimate of how much surveillance by the U.S. intelligence community could cost U.S. tech companies.

In 2013, the non-partisan group estimated that the NSA-related revelations stemming from Edward Snowden’s 2013 leak would scare away foreign customers in the cloud computer sector to the tune of as much as $35 billion in business. The new report says that figure is too low, and that the economic reverberations will “likely far exceed” that initial $35 billion estimate, although the report wasn’t more specific on a final figure.

American tech companies saw a slump in sales after Snowden set off a chain of disclosures that revealed the widespread nature of U.S. surveillance, such as the PRISM program that gave the intelligence community access to private online communications.

According to the report, U.S. companies — including IBM, Microsoft, and Cisco — all saw drops in their sales in China after reports that said the NSA program built backdoors into encryption products. The report says many countries are now looking to enact — or have already enacted — tougher policies for American tech companies operating on their soil. Russia, for example, has enacted laws that require companies to store data domestically. And a new Chinese regulation established this January forces tech companies to submit to audits and build encryption keys in their products.

“When historians write about this period in U.S. history it could very well be that one of the themes will be how the United States lost its global technology leadership to other nations,” the study’s authors Daniel Castro and Alan McQuinn wrote.

TIME Security

Edward Snowden: Privacy Remains ‘Under Threat’

FRANCE-US-EU-SURVEILLANCE-SNOWDEN
Frederick Florin—AFP/Getty Images U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden speaks to European officials via videoconference during a parliamentary hearing on improving the protection of whistleblowers, at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, eastern France, on June 24, 2014.

"Technology companies are being pressured by governments around the world"

Edward Snowden has penned a new op-ed celebrating recent reforms of the National Security Administration.

President Barack Obama this week signed into law tighter restrictions for the agency, barring the organization from mass collection and storage of American phone records. Snowden, the man who revealed these practices to the public, is in the New York Times Friday, celebrating the work of Congress and the President as a “profound” achievement, and “a historic victory for the rights of every citizen.” Still, Snowden believes surveillance reform has a long way to go.

Here are some other choice quotes from the article:

  • Snowden had worried at one point that he might have, “put [his] privileged lives at risk for nothing — that the public would react with indifference, or practiced cynicism, to the revelations.” But the changes to the law have, in part, vindicated his decision to risk imprisonment by leaking classified information
  • He calls this weeks events, “only the latest product of a change in global awareness,” citing other events like The U.N. declaring “mass surveillance an unambiguous violation of human rights,” as evidence of a broader movement to curtail spying powers.
  • He also laments that there is more work to do. Writes Snowden: “the right to privacy . . . remains under threat. Some of the world’s most popular online services have been enlisted as partners in the N.S.A.’s mass surveillance programs, and technology companies are being pressured by governments around the world to work against their customers rather than for them.”

Check out the full article over at The New York Times.

TIME White House

New Snowden Documents Reveal Obama Administration Expanded NSA Spying

The Justice Department was looking for evidence of computer hacking schemes

The Obama administration expanded warrantless surveillance of Americans’ Internet searches, according to new National Security Agency documents released by Edward Snowden.

According to ProPublica, which obtained documents from Snowden, in 2012 the Justice Department authorized the NSA to search Internet cables on American soil without a warrant for evidence of computer hacking schemes originating abroad.

The secret memos from 2012 say the NSA could watch Internet traffic flowing to suspicious addresses or containing malware, as well as monitor addresses and cyber signatures.

Read more at ProPublica

TIME intelligence

Anti-Spying Law Wins Cautious Praise From Edward Snowden

Former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who is in Moscow, is seen on a giant screen during a live video conference for an interview as part of Amnesty International's annual Write for Rights campaign at the Gaite Lyrique in Paris
Charles Platiau—Reuters Former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who is in Moscow, is seen on a giant screen during a live video conference for an interview as part of Amnesty International's annual Write for Rights campaign at the Gaite Lyrique in Paris December 10, 2014

The USA Freedom Act limits the NSA's power to collect phone data

Former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden has called the USA Freedom Act “an important step” but urged further congressional limits on surveillance.

Speaking via video link at a London Amnesty International event Tuesday, Snowden said the law, which will limit the power of the NSA to access telephone data from millions of Americans with no connection to terrorism, was historic.

“For the first time in recent history we found that despite the claims of government, the public made the final decision and that is a radical change that we should seize on, we should value and we should push further,” he said from Russia, where he has been given asylum since he leaked information about Washington’s domestic spying programs to the media in 2013.

The new legislation, which President Obama signed into law on Tuesday night, requires the NSA and other intelligence agencies to obtain a warrant from a counter-terror court before accessing data from telephone companies, AP reports. “This legislation will strengthen civil liberty safeguards and provide greater public confidence in these programs,” Obama said in a statement.

But the Act also renews still-controversial governmental powers granted by older legislation, such as roving wiretaps and tracking of so-called “lone wolf” suspects. For that reason, Snowden urged Congress to consider more limits on surveillance.

“If we collect everything, we understand nothing,” Snowden told the audience. “We’re spending resources for no benefit in terms of public safety and a real cost in terms of freedom and liberty.”

[AP]

TIME intelligence

NSA Program to Collect Phone Records Ends

After a 67-32 vote in the Senate, Obama signed the bill into law

The National Security Agency will lose the ability to collect and store virtually all of American phone records, after the U.S. Senate voted 67-32 Tuesday to reform the secret intelligence collection programs revealed in 2013 by Edward Snowden.

The Senate voted to pass a compromise version of the USA Freedom Act, a bill that has already passed the House, with the support of President Obama, who signed the measure into law Tuesday night. Under the new law, the U.S. government would stop collecting the phone records, showing date, time and numbers connected. Instead, telephone companies will be required to keep the information, which can then be queried with a court order by intelligence and law enforcement professionals.

Senate leaders, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who called the vote a “resounding victory for those who plotted against our homeland,” had hoped to resist the House reforms. But McConnell failed to schedule enough time to debate a different bill before several provisions of the Patriot Act, including the phone records program, expired on Sunday night. “He put us in a position to get us something no worse than the Freedom Act,” said Republican Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan.

McConnell scheduled votes on several amendments to the Freedom Act Tuesday that would have limited the reforms, but they all failed.

Nonetheless, many civil libertarians, including Amash, also opposed the Freedom Act for not going further in limiting the ability of court orders to request large numbers of documents. Under the Freedom Act, requests for information can be made based on a “specific selection term,” which can be an individual, association or an organization, a provision that opponents fear the intelligence community will interpret to once again gather vast amounts of information.

At issue throughout the debate was the history of the specific telephone-record program. It was permitted under the 2001 U.S.A. Patriot Act under a vague provision that allowed the government to request “tangible things” including books, records, papers and documents for an investigation into international terror or clandestine intelligence. Until the Snowden leaks, U.S. officials had concealed the fact that this provision was used to collect records of virtually every phone call made in America.

Asked in 2013 if the NSA collected “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans,” National Intelligence Director James Clapper falsely answered “not wittingly,” in an unclassified Senate hearing. Snowden later said this deception was a major reason for his decision to leak classified material.

The Senate vote ended a tense three days in the Senate, in which Senators arrived home over the weekend only to be forced to stand by as Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a contender for the Republican presidential nomination, obstructed movement on a last-minute effort to pass a short term extension to several intelligence authorities so that the Senate could craft its own bill.

The rebellion of Paul, who forced the expiration of several intelligence gathering powers Sunday night in protest, forced McConnell to act fast to reinstate the authorities. Paul’s procedural moves were able to delay passage of the bill, but only for a couple days.

In the end, he voted against the final bill, along with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who are both also running for President. Republican Ted Cruz voted for the reforms.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, who was traveling at the time of the vote, said he would have voted against the reforms. Graham also criticized Paul’s tactics. “There are lines I don’t cross, within my party or without,” he told TIME. “To me, he crossed the line here. He put the country at risk unnecessarily.”

TIME

Steve Wozniak: Edward Snowden is ‘a Hero to Me’

9th annual Southeast Venture Conference and Digital Summit Charlotte
Charlotte Observer—TNS via Getty Images Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, left, smiles as he answers a question from moderator Mike McGuire during the keynote luncheon of the 9th annual Southeast Venture Conference and Digital Summit Charlotte at the Le Meridien Charlotte on Wednesday, April 1, 2015, in Charlotte, N.C.

Apple co-founder says the NSA whistleblower "gave up his own life . . . to help the rest of us"

Steve Wozniak reaffirmed his staunch support for digital privacy in an interview over the weekend in which the Apple co-founder called National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden “a hero.”

Wozniak, who helped build Apple [fortune-stock symbol=”AAPL”] with Steve Jobs before leaving the tech giant in the mid-1980’s, has expressed an affinity for Snowden in the past. Over the weekend, Wozniak reiterated his admiration for Snowden in an interview with ArabianBusiness.com in which the inventor said Snowden “gave up his own life . . . to help the rest of us.”

Wozniak went on to tell the publication more on his feelings about Snowden:

“‘Total hero to me; total hero,’ he gushes. ‘Not necessarily [for] what he exposed, but the fact that he internally came from his own heart, his own belief in the United States Constitution, what democracy and freedom was about. And now a federal judge has said that NSA data collection was unconstitutional.'”

Two years ago, Wozniak favorably compared Snowden to Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg. Last year, Wozniak also told reporters that he briefly met Snowden at a small event in Moscow, where the former NSA employee is currently living.

Wozniak has expressed some regret in the past for the role technology has played in allowing the government to expand its surveillance efforts. “We didn’t realize that in the digital world there were a lot of ways to use the digital technology to control us, to snoop on us, to make things possible that weren’t,” Wozniak told CNN in 2013.

TIME cybersecurity

Edward Snowden Answered the Question We’ve All Been Wondering

The New Yorker Festival 2014 - Edward Snowden Interviewed by Jane Mayer
Bryan Bedder—Getty Images for The New Yorker General view of atmosphre at Edward Snowden Interviewed by Jane Mayer at the MasterCard stage at SVA Theatre during The New Yorker Festival 2014 on October 11, 2014 in New York City.

He talked about Rand Paul, too

In case you were curious, Edward Snowden still enjoys pizza in Russia.

“Do you miss pizza? Favorite thing about Russia so far? If you could be an insect, which would you be and why?” a Reddit user asked Snowden in a recent AMA, or “Ask Me Anything.” Snowden’s response was short and sweet: “This guy gets it. Russia has Papa John’s. For real.”

But Snowden also took the opportunity to answer questions on more serious subjects. After all, the conversation was centered around Section 215 of the Patriot Act. That’s one section Snowden brought to the public’s attention in 2013 when he leaked information about the NSA’s telephone records collection program.

Snowden took the AMA opportunity to respond to a question about Senator Rand Paul’s filibuster against the Patriot Act. Snowden wrote:

It represents a sea change from a few years ago, when intrusive new surveillance laws were passed without any kind of meaningful opposition or debate. Whatever you think about Rand Paul or his politics, it’s important to remember that when he took the floor to say “No” to any length of reauthorization of the Patriot Act, he was speaking for the majority of Americans — more than 60% of whom want to see this kind of mass surveillance reformed or ended.

Snowden conducted the Reddit conversation along with Jameel Jaffer, the deputy legal director of the ACLU.

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