Today the Senate passed a version of the USA Freedom Act, a bill touted by its authors as surveillance reform that will end the NSA’s mass, suspicionless collection of Americans’ personal data. Given that parts of the Patriot Act expired on June 1st, and that the government is pretending the expiration is a “crisis” rather than an opportunity, President Obama is expected to sign the bill as soon as possible.
While the bill has many significant flaws, the USA Freedom Act vote is also historic: it’s the first time since the 1970s that Congress has indicated its intention to restrict the vast powers of intelligence agencies like the NSA, rather than exponentially expand them. It also shows the power that investigative journalism and brave whistleblowing can have on even the most entrenched government interests. Two years ago, debating these modest changes would’ve been unthinkable, and it is absolutely a vindication for Edward Snowden.