As National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden on Monday apparently remained in Russia, trying to evade extradition to the U.S. on an espionage charge, the debate over the program he revealed continues stateside.
Snowden left Hong Kong on Sunday and flew to Moscow. He may be seeking other countries in which to seek asylum.
Snowden has given highly classified documents to The Guardian and The Washington Post newspapers disclosing U.S. surveillance programs that collect vast amounts of phone records and online data in the name of foreign intelligence, often sweeping up information on American citizens.
Sources contacted for this story said they had problems with the NSA surveillance program, but not all looked upon Snowden’s actions favorably.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the federal government when Snowden’s revelations were published. Gary Brunk, executive director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri, said the lawsuit alleges that the NSA program violates the rights of free speech, association and privacy of Americans.
“The kind of aggregation of personal data involved in these programs constitutes an unreasonable search and seizure” under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, Brunk said.
He said there is no transparency to the government programs.
“We have secret courts making secret decisions and nobody reviewing them,” Brunk said, referring to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court. The court was created after government abuses of the 1960s and 1970s, including spying on civil rights leaders, and other dissidents and protesters.
“At the bottom, this is about unchecked power,” Brunk said. “Unchecked power is ultimately abused.”
Brunk said Snowden took an action he knew would put him at risk for the rest of his life.
“Charging him under the Espionage Act is way overreaching,” Brunk said. “Without these leaks, the freedom of the press in this country would be diminished. We should thank him, rather than get the gallows ready, which has been the response of some members of Congress.”