Cooped up in his section of the Moscow airport, Edward Snowden must be grinning ear to ear. Sure, his future is uncertain, and the prospect of living in Russia is a bleak one. He can’t travel to any of the South American countries that have offered him asylum. But at this point he seems unlikely to be murdered or rendered, and the conversation he hoped to start is in full bloom.
Ron Wyden and Mark Udall have been trying to complain about NSA overreach for years, but their activities are restricted by Senate rules and to some extent by law. So when Snowden’s revelations arrived, Wyden and Udall were ahead of the curve. Still, their reputations as left-wing civil-liberties types meant that their responses were somewhat predictable, and thus less impactful.
To me, today’s news that Dick Durbin is on board for a redesign of the FISA court is fairly big. Durbin, you’ll recall, is the number
three two Democrat in the Senate, so his public support for the idea means more than his individual vote.
On Sunday, the prominent Democratic senator for Illinois, Dick Durbin, added his voice to the mounting criticism of the Fisa court, telling ABC’s This Week: “There should be a real court proceeding. In this case, it’s fixed in a way, it’s loaded. There’s only one case coming before the Fisa, the government’s case. Let’s have an advocate for someone standing up for civil liberties to speak up about the privacy of Americans.”
I doubt this was his original position on the court’s structure, but having him on board for a more reasonable one now is a BFD, in Biden’s terms. Probably the surprisingly close vote on the Amash amendment in the House, which would have defunded the NSA’s gathering of metadata on citizens not suspected of any crime, has motivated Democratic leaders to reevaluate their positions. Obama only won that one by 12 votes by cobbling together a coalition including Nancy Pelosi, Michelle Bachmann, John Boehner, and a majority of the Republican caucus, with a majority of Democrats on the other side.
Reforming the FISA court would be a hugely positive contribution to the future of our Republic, so it’s great to have leaders like Durbin join the push. What I’m wondering now is, with everything that’s happening because of Snowden’s revelations, isn’t it getting harder and harder to deny his positive influence?