Reprinted from Alternet
Two years ago this month, a 29-year-old government contractor named Edward Snowden became the Daniel Ellsberg of his generation, delivering to journalists a tranche of secret documents shedding light on the government's national security apparatus. But whereas Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers detailing one specific military conflict in Southeast Asia, Snowden released details of the U.S. government's sprawling surveillance machine that operates around the globe.
On the second anniversary of Snowden's historic act of civil disobedience, it is worth reviewing what has changed -- and what has not.
On the change side of the ledger, there is the politics of surveillance. For much of the early 2000s, politicians of both parties competed with one another to show who would be a bigger booster of the NSA's operations, fearing that any focus on civil liberties risked their being branded soft on terrorism. Since Snowden, though, the political paradigm has dramatically shifted.
The most illustrative proof that came last month, when the U.S. Senate failed to muster enough votes to reauthorize the law that aims to allow the NSA to engage in mass surveillance. Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul's prominent role in that episode underscored the political shift -- a decade after the GOP mastered the art of citing 9/11-themed arguments about terrorism to win elections, one of the party's top presidential candidates proudly led the fight against one of the key legislative initiatives of the so-called war on terror.
There has also been a shift in public opinion, as evidenced by a new ACLU-sponsored poll showing that almost two thirds of American voters want Congress to curtail the NSA's mass surveillance powers. The survey showed that majorities in both parties oppose renewing the old Patriot Act.
Monumental as those congressional and public opinion shifts are, though, far fewer changes are evident in the government's executive branch.