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NSA leak: Little outcry, little change

Aside from a handful of US legislators, there's been little Congressional outcry over the leaked surveillance programme.
Last modified: 11 Jun 2013 23:04

The US Justice Department is considering felony charges against Edward Snowden as a result of the intelligence leak.

The classified documents he made public last week exposed two massive US domestic surveillance programs being waged on the US public.

The FBI is speaking with Snowden's friends and relatives, and is gathering evidence to build the US government's case. If convicted under the US Espionage Act, Snowden could face ten years to life in prison.

On Capitol Hill, US lawmakers on Tuesday held the first of two closed door briefings that will take place this week. They're investigating whether Snowden's intelligence leak put US lives and national security in jeopardy.

'Traitor'

The top Republican in the House of Representatives says Snowden should face criminal charges.

"He's a traitor," John Boehner said, adding: "The disclosure of this information puts Americans at risk. It shows our adversaries what our capabilities are; it's a giant violation of the law."

It's a law however, that the former NSA contractor says he knowingly violated to expose his government’s internet and telephone monitoring programmes on law abiding US citizens.

"Even if you're not doing anything wrong you're being watched and recorded," Snowden told the British newspaper, The Guardian.

The full extent of just how vast the US government is eavesdropping by scouring the phone records and internet communications of private citizens has not yet been fully revealed.

Glenn Greenwald is the reporter that received the classified documents from Snowden and made them public. Greenwald told Al Jazeera: "We are going to have a lot more significant revelations that have not yet been heard over the next several weeks and months. There are dozens of stories generated by the documents that he provided and we intend to pursue every last one of them."

Judicial review

The Obama Administration has repeatedly defended the surveillance arguing it was subject to judicial and Congressional review before it was approved and implemented.

Still, oversight of the administration's monitoring programmes are done in secret and a group of bi-partisan senators wants that to change. The group is introducing a bill it hopes will force the government to reveal how it interprets the US law that's supposed to protect Americans from broad sweeping surveillance.

Cyber security analyst, Jody Westby, says the rights of the public under the US Constitution have been violated and it needs to be upheld.

"I think this is every bit as serious as Watergate and should require every bit of scrutiny that we have, to say what happened in our balances of power that Congress let this happen? The people didn't know about it. The judicial review was so secret there were not appropriate checks and balances," Westby told me.

But, aside from a handful of US lawmakers calling for the surveillance programmes to be curtailed, there's been little public and Congressional outcry. That makes any legislative effort to curtail government monitoring of private individuals unlikely to become law.