View Full Version : Reddit AMA w/ Snowden & ACLU regarding Patriot Act

05-21-2015, 11:26 AM

Q & A so far:

Q1: What're your thoughts on Rand Paul's filibuster against the renewal of the Patriot Act?

A1 (From Snowden): It represents a sea change from a few years ago, when intrusive new surveillance laws were passed without any kind of meaningful opposition or debate. Whatever you think about Rand Paul or his politics, it's important to remember that when he took the floor to say "No" to any length of reauthorization of the Patriot Act, he was speaking for the majority of Americans -- more than 60% of whom want to see this kind of mass surveillance reformed or ended.
He was joined by several other senators who disagree with the Senate Majority leader's efforts to sneak through a reauthorization of what courts just weeks ago declared was a comprehensively unlawful program, and if you notice that yours did not take to the floor with him, you should call them right now and ask them to vote against any extension of the Patriot Act, because the final vote is being forced during the dark of a holiday weekend to shield them from criticism.

Q2: Even if section 215 is not renewed, do you believe that the NSA/ US government will still accomplish phone surveillance without approval and in secret?

A2 (Snowden): There are always reasons to be concerned that regardless of the laws passed, some agencies in government (FBI, NSA, CIA, and DEA, for example, have flouted laws in the past) will miscontrue the intent of Congress in passing limiting laws -- or simply disregard them totally. For example, the DOJ's internal watchdog, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released a report claiming, among other abuses, that it could simply refuse to tell government oversight bodies what exactly it was doing, so the legality or illegality of their operations simply couldn't be questioned at all.
However, that's no excuse for the public or Congress to turn a blind eye to unlawful or immoral operations -- and the kind of mass surveillance happening under Section 215 of the Patriot Act right now is very much unlawful: the Courts ruled just two weeks ago that not only are these activities illegal, but they have been since the day the programs began.

Q3: What are your thoughts on the media and the governments reaction to Gen Patreus' leaks compared to Edward's?

A3 (ACLU's Jameer Jaffer): The government sometimes has good reason to keep secrets. But often it doesn't--it classifies information gratuitously / automatically, or in order to shield officials from embarrassment or accountability, or to hide activity that's unlawful. It's unfortunate that neither our laws nor the people who administer them do a good job of distinguishing leaks that are dangerous from leaks that are in the public interest.

Q4: Is there still information relevant to section 215 in the document archive that hasn't been released yet?

A4 (ACLU): Yes. Take a look at the Inspector General report that was released earlier today. It's heavily redacted. I think the government has a legitimate interest in concealing some of that information, but certainly not all of it. Especially when Congress is considering reform/reauthorization of Section 215, the public should have a better sense of how the law is being used.

That report, by the way, underscores both that the surveillance laws are too permissive and that the oversight system is broken. According to the report, it took the FBI 7 years to develop “minimization procedures” meant to protect the privacy of innocent people. The FBI is using Section 215 to collect huge volumes of information, including metadata and electronic records, about innocent people. And despite all of this collection, the FBI is unable to point to any case—not even one!—in which the information it obtained turned out to be crucial to an investigation.


This is ongoing right now, not sure if I'll continue to update, but if interested just go to the link