Former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden is cheering President Obama’s plans to end the agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, calling it a “turning point” in the fight over government surveillance.
In a statement distributed on Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which is coordinating Snowden's legal aid, the former federal contractor said Obama's decision proves that the snooping was ineffective.
“In the USA Freedom Act, Congress is considering historic, albeit incomplete reforms,” Snowden said, referring to legislation from Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), which has more than 160 co-sponsors in Congress. “And President Obama has now confirmed that these mass surveillance programs, kept secret from the public and defended out of reflex rather than reason, are in fact unnecessary and should be ended.
"This is a turning point, and it marks the beginning of a new effort to reclaim our rights from the NSA and restore the public's seat at the table of government,” he said.
Documents leaked by Snowden about the NSA’s surveillance programs sparked outrage in the U.S. and around the world.
Obama has called for reforms to the contested phone records program, which gathers data about which numbers people dial and how often they make the calls, but not the content of their conversations.
A legislative proposal that will be released in coming days will reportedly call for an end to the government’s collection and storage of the phone records. The bill would require private phone companies to hold onto the data so that federal officials can perform searches with a court order.
Supporters have said that the phone data collection, authorized in the wake of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, have helped to prevent terrorist attacks. Had the program been in place at the time, they say, the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon may have been prevented.