Oscar for Snowden documentary not stopping criticism

Oscar for Snowden documentary not stopping criticism
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The fact that a film about Edward Snowden won an Oscar for best documentary isn't silencing criticism of the leaker from the head of the National Security Agency (NSA).

Snowden’s leaks about the NSA have “had a material impact on our ability to generate insights about what terrorist groups around the world are doing,“ NSA Director Adm. Michael Rogers said on Monday.

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“Have I lost capability that we had prior to the revelations? Yes," he added during a cybersecurity conference held by the New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute.

Critics of Snowden in the government have long expressed fears that his leaks helped terrorists avoid detection by the NSA, and have caused blind spots for U.S. spies.

Those fears have been contradicted, however, by various forms of official praise for Snowden’s leaks, which have seemed to legitimize his actions.

The latest validation came on Sunday night, when the creators of “Citizenfour” — which depicted intimate moments with Snowden holed up in a Hong Kong hotel room as his documents made headlines around the globe — were honored at the Academy Awards. In the past, journalists at The Washington Post and the Guardian were given the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for public service, among many other plaudits for both Snowden and the reporters who worked with him.

Debate over the NSA is likely to head back to Capitol Hill in coming weeks, ahead of a June 1 deadline for Congress to reauthorize provisions of the Patriot Act that allow the NSA to collect “metadata” about Americans’ phone calls.

That program, which has emerged as the most controversial revealed by Snowden’s leaks, “generates value for the nation,” Rogers said, adding, however, that it is not a “silver bullet.” Instead, he called it “one component of a broader strategy” to protect the U.S. against foreign threats.

Critics have disagreed. Last year, the independent Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board said that the program has never produced information that could not have been picked up through other means. The board also said that it is illegal

If the program is not reauthorized this year, Rogers seemed to say that the agency could effectively carry out its mission. That prediction is more measured than those of others who have worried about potentially disastrous impacts on national security.

“Do I think that if we lose it, it makes our job harder? Yes,” Rogers said.

“On the other hand, we respond to the legal framework that is created for us.”