About Edward Snowden
- Senate Passes FREEDOM Act, Ends NSA Bulk Collection: The Senate has passed the USA FREEDOM Act, sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator Mike Lee (R-TX). The Act, which the President is expected to sign, ends the NSA bulk collection of domestic telephone records and establishes new transparency and accountability rules for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. In 2012, EPIC testified before the House Judiciary Committee on the need to reform the Surveillance Court. In 2013, EPIC filed a petition in the Supreme Court, In re EPIC, arguing that the NSA program was unlawful. In 2014, EPIC and a broad coalition urged the President to end the NSA surveillance program. (Jun. 2, 2015)
- Senate to Debate End of PATRIOT Act: The Senate convenes today for a rare Sunday session. Senators will consider whether to renew key provisions of the PATRIOT Act, including the NSA bulk collection program, due to expire tonight. Senator Rand Paul has said he will oppose any renewal. Also under consideration is the FREEDOM Act, sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator Mike Lee (R-TX). In 2013, EPIC filed a petition in the Supreme Court, In re EPIC, supported by experts, scholars, and members of the Church Committee, arguing that the NSA program was unlawful. In 2014, EPIC and a broad coalition urged the President to end the program. The Sunday debate will be broadcast live on CSPAN2 at 4 pm EDT. (May. 31, 2015)
- Inspector General Warns: Significant Oversight of Section 215 Required: The DOJ's Office of the Inspector General released a report this month detailing the FBI's use of Section 215 and warning that "significant oversight" is required. The Inspector General describes the FBI's expanding use of 215 to collect electronic information in bulk and criticized the agency for taking seven years to develop minimization procedures. The Second Circuit ruled the NSA's telephone record collection program exceeded the legal authority under Section 215. EPIC previously petitioned the Supreme Court to suspend the program. Unless Congress votes to reauthorize or modify the authority, Section 215 is set to expire on June 1. (May. 21, 2015)
- EPIC, Coalition to President: No Encryption Backdoors: EPIC and a coalition of civil society organizations and security experts urged President Obama to reject proposal to weaken encryption used in U.S. products. Administration officials, including FBI Director Comey, have advocated for broken encryption to enable law enforcement access to private communications. The letter details how weakened encryption undermines cybersecurity and economic security. EPIC previously led the effort to oppose the "Clipper Chip," the NSA's proposal for key escrow encryption that would have severely crippled the privacy and security of online communication. EPIC also recently expressed support for encryption and anonymity in a letter to a UN Rapporteur. (May. 20, 2015)
- Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down NSA Bulk Record Collection Program: The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that the NSA's telephone record collection program exceeds legal authority. The government claimed that it could collect all records under the Section 215 "relevance" standard. But the court rejected that argument and held that "such an expansive concept of 'relevance' is unprecedented and unwarranted." The conclusion mirrors the argument EPIC, and a coalition of technical expert, legal scholars, and former members of the Church Committee made in Petition to the Supreme Court in 2013. EPIC explained in its petition, "It is simply not possible that every phone record in the possession of a telecommunications firm could be relevant to an authorized investigation." The Second Circuit found that Section 215 does not "authorize anything approaching the breadth of the sweeping surveillance at issue here." (May. 7, 2015)
- House Committee Approves Surveillance Reform Bill: The House Judiciary Committee voted to send the USA FREEDOM Act of 2015 to the House of Representatives for further consideration prior to the June 1 Patriot Act expiration deadline. The bill would end the NSA's controversial domestic telephone record collection program. The bill would also establish new transparency requirements for Intelligence Court Orders, recommended by EPIC in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee. EPIC also opposed renewal of the NSA's Section 215 orders and petitioned the Supreme Court to suspend the program. (May. 1, 2015)
- Senator McConnell Seeks Renewal of NSA Bulk Collection Program: Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has introduced a bill that would extend the Patriot Act until 2020. Specifically, S. 1035 would renew the controversial Section 215 authorities for the NSA's telephone record collection program. The 215 authority is set to expire on June 1. EPIC urged the President and the Attorney General not to renew the 215 order after it became clear that the NSA routinely collected the telephone records of US citizens. EPIC previously petitioned the Supreme Court to suspend the program, arguing that the NSA program exceeded the section 215 legal authority. (Apr. 23, 2015)
- European Court of Justice Hears Case Challenging "Safe Harbor" Agreement and NSA Spying: The Court of Justice for the European Union heard arguments this week in Maximilian Schrems v. Data Protection Commissioner, a case filed in Ireland following the revelations of the NSA PRISM program. At issue is whether the disclosure of EU citizens' data by Facebook and other Internet companies to the NSA violates the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, and whether the EU-US "Safe Harbor" agreement provides "adequate" data protection. A decision is likely later this year. Schrems is the recipient of the 2013 EPIC International Privacy Champion Award. (Mar. 24, 2015)
- Wikimedia Sues NSA Over Mass Internet Surveillance: Wikimedia filed a federal lawsuit against the NSA over the mass surveillance of Internet communications. Wikimedia asked the court to halt the government's upstream collection—the practice of directly tapping into the Internet backbone that carries communications across the U.S. Wikimedia argues that upstream collection exceeds statutory authority and violates the First and Fourth Amendments, as well as Article III of the Constitution. Explaining the case, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales wrote, "Privacy is an essential right. It makes freedom of expression possible, and sustains freedom of inquiry and association." In 2013, EPIC petitioned the Supreme Court to stop the NSA's bulk telephone metadata program. (Mar. 10, 2015)
- UK Privacy Groups Prevail in GCHQ Spying Case: A British court that oversees intelligence gathering has ruled that GCHQ, the British spy agency, violated international human rights law with the mass collection of cellphone and Internet data. Last year, the same court ruled that data could lawfully be transferred between US and UK intelligence agencies. That earlier decision is on appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. In 2013, following the disclosure of the "Verizon order," which authorized the NSA's routine collection of US telephone records, EPIC brought a petition to the US Supreme Court, arguing that the agency practice exceeded the "Section 215" authority. Dozens of legal scholars and former members of the Church Committee supported the EPIC petition. (Feb. 9, 2015)
On the evening of June 5, 2013, The Guardian began publishing stories based on internal government documents disclosed by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden. The first story published by The Guardian described the NSA’s bulk metadata collection program, which has since been the subject of numerous lawsuits, government reports, and surveillance reform proposals. Under the Bulk Metadata Program, authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, Verizon and other major telephone companies were ordered to turn over all telephone call detail records (including the numbers dialed and received, the time, duration, and other identifying information) to the NSA on an ongoing basis.
The second story, published by the Washington Post, described the NSA’s collection of Internet communications directly from major service providers including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo!, Apple, Skype, and AOL. The documents released also described the NSA’s “upstream collection” activity, which involves collecting digital communications directly from the fiber optic facilities that transfer Internet traffic.
Subsequent stories published by The Guardian and the Washington Post have revealed the scope of NSA surveillance activities, including “the capability of recording ‘100 percent’ of a foreign country’s telephone calls, enabling the agency to rewind and replay conversations as long as a month after they take place.” The stories also revealed that the NSA has collected millions of Internet address books or “buddy lists,” and has infiltrated the private links between Google and Yahoo! data centers. Both The Guardian and the Washington Post received Pulitzer Prizes in 2014 for their coverage of the NSA story.
As a result of the Snowden revelations, Congress has conducted both public and classified hearings, and has considered reform proposals aimed at ending the bulk collection, increasing transparency, and improving the FISA Court process. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has also released thousands of pages of formerly classified documents, and created a public website to provide ongoing updates and transparency reports. Even the FISA Court, which formerly had no public presence, has created a publicly available website and docket.
Edward Snowden is one of the 2014 recipients of EPIC’s Champion of Freedom Award
- Matthew Cole, Richard Esposito, Bill Dedman, & Mark Schone, Inside the Mind of Edward Snowden, NBC News (May 28, 2014)
- Eben Moglen, Privacy Under Attack: the NSA Files Revealed New Threats to Democracy, The Guardian (May 27, 2014)
- United States of Secrets, Frontline (PBS) (May 13 & 20, 2014)
- Watch: Laura Poitras and Edward Snowden at The Ridenhour Prizes, National Institute (May 2, 2014)
- A Virtual Conversation with Edward Snowden, SXSW (Mar. 10, 2014)
- Edward Snowden: Here’s How We Take Bake the Internet, TED (Mar. 2014)
- Editorial, Edward Snowden, Whistleblower, N.Y. Times (Jan. 1, 2014)
- Janet Reitman, Snowden and Greenwald: The Men Who Leaked Secrets, Rolling Stone (Dec. 4, 2013)
- Alan Rusbridger, The Snowden Leaks and the Public, N.Y. Review of Books (Nov. 21, 2013)
- Laura Poitras & Glenn Greenwald, NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden: ‘I don’t want to live in a society that does these sorts of things’, The Guardian (June 10, 2013)
- Bruce Schneier, Before Prosecuting Snowden, Investigate the Government, N.Y. Times (June 11, 2013)
- Catalog of the Snowden Revelations, Lawfare
- Glenn Greenwald, No Place To Hide (2014)
- First Look Media, About
- Washington Post (Barton Gellman and Ashkan Soltani), NSA Program Reaches ‘Into the Past’ to Retrieve, Replay Phone Calls (Mar. 18, 2014)
- Ravi Somaiya, Pulitzer Prizes Awarded for Coverage of NSA Secrets and Boston Bombing, N.Y. Times (Apr. 14, 2014)
- James Bamford, They Know More Than You Think They Know, N.Y. Review of Books (Aug. 15, 2013)
- Washington Post (Barton Gellman), NSA Slides Explain the PRISM Data-collection Program (June 6, 2014) updated June 10, 2014
- The Guardian (Glenn Greenwald), NSA Collecting Phone Records of Millions of Customers Daily (June 5, 2013)
- In re EPIC
- FISA Court Website
- Report on the Telephone Records Program Conducted Under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act and on the Operations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (Jan. 23, 2014)
- Liberty and Security in a Changing World, Report and Recommendations of The President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies (Dec. 12, 2013)
- Eben Moglen, Snowden and the Future (2013)
Share this page:
EPIC relies on support from individual donors to pursue our work.
Subscribe to the EPIC Alert
The EPIC Alert is a biweekly newsletter highlighting emerging privacy issues.