For the last year, when it's come to disclosures about the surveillance operations of the National Security Agency (NSA), the Obama Administration has said one thing and Edward Snowden has said another. Now the NSA would like to turn the tables. After Snowden said in an NBC News interview that he had repeatedly raised concerns about the legality of the NSA's surveillance programs, the NSA claims they could only find one e-mail from Snowden that related to the programs, sent in April 2013, and that it didn't express concern.
In the e-mail, Snowden questioned whether it was true that Executive Orders had the same precedence as law in a "Hierarchy of Governing Authorities" provided during training. Snowden also said he brought up concerns face to face with multiple colleagues and supervisors, but, the Sydney Morning Herald reports, the NSA did not respond to a query about whether it had asked those people about those alleged conversations. Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) backed the NSA, telling the San Francisco Chronicle that when she asked the agency about whether there was any documentation Edward Snowden had tried to blow the whistle on the NSA's surveillance operations it told her there wasn't.
The Obama Administration has insisted Snowden did not have to go to the press with his NSA disclosures but should have followed official channels, such as going to Congress. As a contractor for the NSA, however, Snowden would not be afforded the same whistleblower protections as government employees. The White House has said clemency for Snowden is "off the table" and appears eager to get him back to the United States to face prosecution.
Despite accusing Snowden of treason and espionage, the government has admitted, albeit slowly, that some kind of reform of the NSA's surveillance operations is necessary. Late last year, a White House panel made more than 40 recommendations on how to reform the NSA, largely trying to limit how much data the agency collects and who it can target. While Ron Bailey wrote that the recommendations did not go far enough, even they may be a bridge too far for the Obama Administration. Last week, meanwhile, the House passed a watered-down version of an NSA "reform" bill troublingly called the USA FREEDOM Act.