CRF Blog

The Legal Story of the Year

by Bill Hayes

In The Legal Story of the Year for Justia, John Dean argues that the case of Edward Snowden was the more important legal story of 2013 and will continue to be so in 2014.

Edward Snowden’s leaks have shaken the intelligence community, which has thrived in secrecy, to its core. If Snowden has damaged national security with his leaks, that fact is not apparent. As Dan Ellsberg observed, Snowden had clearances that were above Top Secret, but he has not leaked information with such a higher classification. What Snowden has shown Americans, and the world, by releasing black budgets is the massive size, and with samples of their gathered intelligence, the scope of American intelligence-collection in the digital era. Russian President Putin told The Moscow Times that he was “jealous” that Obama “could afford to organize such large-scale spying activities, especially of foreign leaders” and added, “I envy Obama because he can do that, and there will be no consequences for him.”

I’m not so sure that Vladimir is correct about there being no consequences. In late October, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced in the U.S. Senate, the USA FREEDOM Act, which seeks to address the NSA abuses that were revealed by Snowden’s leaks. Given the fact that this is a truly bipartisan undertaking, by legislators with clout in their respective bodies, it could happen even in a Congress where little does happen. This legislation remains very alive, according to recent reports. Congress could confront President Obama with more restrictions than he might otherwise wish to endure. [more]