Snowden: “We Need A Watchdog That Watches Congress”

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Whistleblower Edward Snowden addressed the SXSW audience in a rare public Interview today and gave some policy suggestions about how the government can better protect our 4th Amendment rights. The good news is that congress is already considering many of the proposals he mentioned.

First and foremost, Snowden says intelligence agencies need to adopt a “law enforcement” model of defense. In other words, they need to cease the bulk collection of Internet and phone data and, instead, only go after suspects with a warrant. A contingent of congress members, including U.S. Senators Rand Paul and Ron Wyden, have proposed exactly that.

However, Snowden saw a bigger problem with congress, who he accused of “cheerleading for the NSA instead of holding them accountable.” For instance, when Director of the NSA, James Clapper, admittedly gave false answers to Congress about the bulk collection of data, some members of the Intelligence Committee rushed to his defense.

“We need a watchdog that watches congress,” he said.

The closest thing being proposed by both congress and President Barack Obama is a so-called “public advocate”. The proposed role would litigate against the NSA when agents go to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, to ask for permission to spy on Americans.

The important issue, especially to the tech industry, is the ability to disclose the number of users affected by NSA spying. Hopefully, then, we can know whether the government is, indeed, spying on us all or if it’s been more selective in its investigations. Google’s most recent Transparency Report was able to disclose a bit more data from which organization was requesting information on its users, but we still don’t know all the ways in which intelligence agencies are collecting data.

Concludes Snowden, “If we’re not informed, we can’t consent to these policies”.

[Image Credit: Flickr Users yeahbouyee!]