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The revelations have continued to this day. As a result, legislation that makes major changes to bulk collection of call records just passed the House — although it remains possible that it, too, will be secretly interpreted to allow surveillance of millions of Americans. The director of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has publicly accepted the need for greater transparency and taken some steps in that direction. The bubble that has seemed to protect the intelligence community from President Obama’s openness initiatives may have sprung a leak. It is essential that, as the debate over the USA FREEDOM Act moves to the Senate, Congress ensures that this leak is not resealed, and that future disclosures should not require anyone to take the risks Snowden did. Instead, they should come from declassification of FISA court decisions, public reports of how many people’s communications are being stored in the NSA’s databases, and oversight hearings that are open to the press and public.
Patrice McDermott is executive director of OpenTheGovernment.org, and author of “Who Needs to Know? The State of Public Access to Federal Government Information.”