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The Snowden Effect: 2 More Recent Events Demonstrate Efficacy of Leaks

One of Greenwald's articles this morning touched on some of the fallout from Snowden's leaks, political and otherwise, as well as the positive impact in terms of stirring long-overdue debate about the surveillance state and civil liberties, etc. Indeed, Greenwald observes:

In my first substantive discussion with Edward Snowden, which took place via encrypted online chat, he told me he had only one fear. It was that the disclosures he was making, momentous though they were, would fail to trigger a worldwide debate because the public had already been taught to accept that they have no right to privacy in the digital age.

Snowden, at least in that regard, can rest easy. The fallout from the Guardian's first week of revelations is intense and growing.

Two more examples today add support to that conclusion; one of them directly attributable to Snowden's leaks, and the other arguably so.

First, just about a half hour ago, AP reported this:

Facebook's top attorney says after a week of negotiations with national security officials, the company is allowed to make new revelations about government orders for user data.

General Counsel Ted Ullyot said in a statement Friday that Facebook is only allowed to talk about total numbers, but is lobbying to reveal more, and the permission received is still unprecedented.

Following the guidelines, Ullyot says Facebook received between 9,000 and 10,000 requests from government entities in the last six months of 2012, on subjects from missing children to terrorist threats.

I'm sure much will be made of the specific numbers - 9,000 -10,000 requests - but beyond the light being shed on how far the tentacles of government reached into these companies, I think the broader implication is far more significant. Specifically, these private companies, as a direct result of the leaks, have been forced to distance themselves as much as possible from government, and they continue to seek ways to do just that. In other words, as it relates to big business, especially in the tech field, Government relationship has officially been stigmatized. I don't think you can overstate how significant that is.

The second event which lends itself to the success and importance of the leaks was reported by Slate late Friday afternoon. The headline? "Government Dealt Blow in Effort to Stop Release of Secret Info on Unlawful Surveillance." Check it out:

On Wednesday, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court rejected an ongoing attempt by the Justice Department to prevent the release of a classified 2011 FISC opinion detailing unlawful surveillance. The existence of the opinion was first disclosed last year by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who revealed that there was at least one case in which the FISC had found the government conducted spying that had circumvented the law and was “unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment,” which is supposed to prevent unreasonable searches and seizures.

Prompted by Wyden’s statement, the Electronic Frontier Foundation launched an effort obtain a copy of the FISC opinion through Freedom of Information Act litigation. But the case hit a roadblock when the government claimed an obscure rule prevented it from releasing the opinion, even if it wanted to, because publication would have to be first approved by the FISC judge who authored it. This led EFF to take up the case with the FISC directly, filing a motion asking for the disclosure to be authorized.

On Wednesday, EFF was successful. In what the rights group hailed as an unprecedented victory, FISC Judge Reggie Walton ruled that the government’s argument was invalid and that “the court has not otherwise prohibited the government's disclosure” of the opinion.

If the case sounds familiar, it is: I wrote and posted about it here, when the government first submitted its argument that the court opinion should not be released. The court rejected their argument.

Importantly, note how the EFF describes this as "an unprecedented victory," as surely it is. If you bring up the actual court decision document (linked in the Slate article), you'll see the court decision is dated June 12th, a full 6 days after the first revelations of the massive surveillance program to which we are all subject.

Does anyone doubt this "unprecedented victory" is directly attributable to the scrutiny and pressure which materialized and escalated over the 6 days between the leak and the court decision? Can there be any doubt?

Pre-Snowden, this would have been rubber-stamped "Top Secret" never to see the light of day, end of story. Now, whatever heavily-redacted document we end up getting, is at least one step - hell, one giant leap - closer to sunshine.

And this is before whatever leaked documents are coming next from Greenwald.

The Snowden Effect.

It's snowballing.