President Obama's press conference on Friday was full of headline-making news about new proposals to reform the American surveillance system. But another headline could also be appropriate: "Journalism gets results."
Or, as the Guardian's Spencer Ackerman put it:
— Spencer Ackerman (@attackerman) August 9, 2013
The press conference came after weeks of steady reports about the scale and scope of the National Security Agency's surveillance capabilities, all stemming from a mountain of leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The vast majority of the reports appeared in the Guardian.
Obama said that he had been thinking about the nation's surveillance programs before the Guardian's stories, but this claim was meant with a healthy amount of skepticism:
At what point, in the absence of Snowden, did Obama intend to reveal NSA detail and prompt this debate?
— Ravi Somaiya (@ravisomaiya) August 9, 2013
Obama says this debate and reform could've happened without Snowden. Funny, just 7 months ago, his admin opposed ALL reforms in Congress.
— Trevor Timm (@trevortimm) August 9, 2013
Washington Post writer Timothy Lee expanded on the point:
Yet the Obama administration showed little interest in subjecting the NSA to meaningful oversight and public debate prior to Snowden’s actions. When Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked for a “ballpark figure” of the number of Americans whose information was being collected by the NSA last year, the agency refused to give the senator any information, arguing that doing so would violate the privacy of those whose information was collected.
Moreover, Obama himself mentioned "repeated leaks of classified information" at the very start of his remarks about his reform proposals — a clear indication that the Guardian and Snowden had influenced the debate.
“There’s no doubt that Mr. Snowden’s leaks triggered a much more rapid and passionate response than would have been the case if I had simply appointed this review board," he said.
Obama's decision to both acknowledge Snowden's impact and to propose changes also led some to wonder how he could still paint Snowden in a bad light:
If this is, as Obama says, an important conversation to be having, then isn't Edward Snowden an American hero for forcing it?
— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) August 9, 2013
.@chucktodd asks big question: if Snowden has inspired all these useful forms, wasn't this kind of helpful?
— Amy Davidson (@tnyCloseRead) August 9, 2013