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The fallout from the Snowden revelations

Glenn Greenwald, writing in "Edward Snowden's worst fear has not been realised – thankfully" in The Guardian:

"In my first substantive discussion with Edward Snowden, which took place via encrypted online chat, he told me he had only one fear. It was that the disclosures he was making, momentous though they were, would fail to trigger a worldwide debate because the public had already been taught to accept that they have no right to privacy in the digital age.

Snowden, at least in that regard, can rest easy. The fallout from the Guardian's first week of revelations is intense and growing.

If "whistleblowing" is defined as exposing secret government actions so as to inform the public about what they should know, to prompt debate, and to enable reform, then Snowden's actions are the classic case.

US polling data, by itself, demonstrates how powerfully these revelations have resonated. Despite a sustained demonization campaign against him from official Washington, a Time magazine poll found that 54% of Americans believe Snowden did "a good thing", while only 30% disagreed. That approval rating is higher than the one enjoyed by both Congress and President Obama.

While a majority nonetheless still believes he should be prosecuted, a plurality of Americans aged 18 to 34, who Time says are "showing far more support for Snowden's actions", do not. Other polls on Snowden have similar results, including a Reuters finding that more Americans see him as a "patriot" than a "traitor".

On the more important issue – the public's views of the NSA surveillance programs – the findings are even more encouraging from the perspective of reform. A Gallup poll last week found that more Americans disapprove (53%) than approve (37%) of the two NSA spying programs revealed last week by the Guardian.

As always with polling data, the results are far from conclusive or uniform. But they all unmistakably reveal that there is broad public discomfort with excessive government snooping and that the Snowden-enabled revelations were met with anything but the apathy he feared.

But, most importantly of all, the stories thus far published by the Guardian are already leading to concrete improvements in accountability and transparency. The ACLU quickly filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the legality, including the constitutionality, of the NSA's collection of the phone records of all Americans. The US government must therefore now defend the legality of its previously secret surveillance program in open court.

These revelations have also had serious repercussions in Congress. The NSA and other national security state officials have been forced to appear several times already for harsh and hostile questioning before various committees.

To placate growing anger over having been kept in the dark and misled, the spying agency gave a private briefing to rank-and-file members of Congress about programs of which they had previously been unaware. Afterward, Democratic Rep Loretta Sanchez warned that the NSA programs revealed by the Guardian are just "the tip of the iceberg". She added: "I think it's just broader than most people even realize, and I think that's, in one way, what astounded most of us, too."

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