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Are Snowden, Greenwald and Wikileaks Winning?

Are Americans becoming more concerned that government 'anti-terror' programs are actually restricting civil liberties?

"It is a slap in the face of all Americans,"  said Senator John McCain (R - AZ), referring to Russia's decision to grant asylum to Edward Snowden. He demanded that the Russians face "  serious repercussions " for their decision.

Well, turn the other cheek, I say. McCain ran for president in 2008 promising to be more belligerent towards the Russians, so this is normal for Dr.Strangelove and his crusty Cold War foaming at the mouth.

Not to be outdone, Democratic Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY)  said that Russia had "stabbed us in the back," and that "each day that Mr. Snowden is allowed to roam free is another twist of the knife".

Twist and shout! The Russians did a big favour for the freedom-loving peoples of the world, including those in the US who can still think with our own brains. The self-righteous pundits who complain about Russia's own human rights record, as if this were even remotely relevant, might try to recall how Snowden ended up there in the first place. He was passing through Moscow on his way to South America, and it was only by virtue of Washington's " gross violations of his human rights," as Amnesty International called it, that he got stuck there.

Indeed, the whole chase scene is symbolic of the difficulties in which Washington finds itself immersed. Unable to win their case in the court of public opinion, the self-styled leaders of the free world resort to threats and bullying to get their way - which kind of sums up American foreign policy in the second decade of the 21st century. And the spectacle of US attorney general Eric Holder trying to  offer Russia assurances that his government would not torture or execute Snowden speaks volumes about how far the US government's reputation on human rights - even within the United States - has plummeted over the past decade.

Meanwhile, Snowden and Glenn Greenwald and Wikileaks are winning. At the outset Snowden said his biggest fear was that people would see "the lengths that the government is going to grant themselves powers unilaterally to create greater control over American society and global society and that ' nothing will change'". But his disclosures have already created a new debate, and political change will follow. 

Two weeks ago there was a surprisingly close call in the US House of Representatives, with the majority of House Democrats and 94 of 234 Republicans defying their House (and Senate) leadership, the White House, and the national security establishment in a vote to end the NSA's mass collection of phone records. The amendment was  narrowly defeated by a vote of 205 to 217, but it was clear that "this is only the beginning," as John Conyers (D-MI), ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee announced. 

A week later Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Democratic Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee,  called a hearingwhere he challenged the Obama administration's claims that the NSA dragnet had been effective in disrupting terrorist plots. According to Leahy, the classified list that he had been shown of "terrorist events" did not show that "dozens or even several terrorist plots" had been thwarted by the NSA's surveillance of domestic phone calls.

It is beginning to sink in that the main target of the NSA's massive spying programmes is not terrorism but the American people themselves (as well as other non-terrorist populations throughout the world). Pew Research  finds for the first time since 2004 that there are more Americans concerned that government "anti-terror" programmes have "gone too far in restricting civil liberties" than those who think not enough has been done to protect people from terrorism.

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