Wednesday, June 6, 2018

5 years ago: June 6, 2013. A day that changed world history

A passage from Glenn Greenwald's 2014 book No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the Surveillance State:

At 5:40pm [June 6, 2013 in Hong Kong], Janine sent me an instant message with a link, the one I had been waiting to see for days. “It’s live,” she said.

NSA Collecting Phone Records of Millions of Verizon Customers Daily, the headline read, followed by a subhead: “Exclusive: Top Secret Court Order Requiring Verizon to Hand Over All Call Data Shows Scale of Domestic Surveillance Under Obama.”

That was followed by a link to the full FISA court order. The first three paragraphs of our article told the entire story:

The National Security Agency is currently collecting the 
telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, 
one of America’s largest telecom providers, under a top 
secret court order issued in April.

The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, 
requires Verizon on an“ongoing, daily basis” to give the NSA 
information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the 
US and between the US and other countries.

The document shows for the first time that under the 
Obama administration the communication records of millions of 
US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – 
regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.

The impact of the article was instant and enormous, beyond anything I had anticipated. It was the lead story on every national news broadcast that night and dominated political and media discussions. I was inundated with interview requests from virtually every national TV outlet: CNN, MSNBC, NBC, the Today show, Good Morning America, and others. I spent many hours in Hong Kong talking to numerous sympathetic television interviewers—an unusual experience in my career as a political writer often at odds with the establishment press—who all treated the story as a major event and a real scandal.

In response, the White House spokesman predictably defended the bulk collection program as “a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats.” The Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, one of the most steadfast congressional supporters of the national security state generally and US surveillance specifically, invoked standard post-9/11 fear-mongering by telling reporters that the program was necessary because “people want the homeland kept safe.”

But almost nobody took the government's claims seriously.

– Excerpt from
​ ​
Glenn Greenwald's No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the Surveillance State  (2014)

Edward Snowden remains the best example of courage, manhood, and character I've seen in 20 years.

America is a fundamentally good country. We have good people with good values who want 
to do the right thing. But the structures of power that exist are working to their own 
ends to extend their capability at the expense of the freedom of all publics.
Edward Snowden, Hong Kong interview, June 6, 2013