The Snowden Effect: Examining the Legal, Policy, and Political Implications of the Revelations about the NSA Bulk Collection Metadata Program
Edward Snowden's publishing classified information about the existence of the Section 215 bulk collection metadata program set in motion the largest debate about potential abuse in by spying agencies since the Watergate Scandal in the 1970's. This paper will examine the metadata program by: First, the relevant background which includes the establishment of the 20th century intelligence community, intelligence reforms in the wake of the Watergate scandal, and the changes stemming from the 9/11 attacks. Second, the Section 215 metadata program itself will be discussed, including its lawfulness. Third and finally, an analysis of potential reforms will be discussed, including ones advanced by government commissions. Ultimately, the Section 215 program has demonstrated compelling legal authority, positive benefits to national security, and a minimal need for reform. This conclusion is based on the program being consistent with the legal spirit of the Watergate Reforms, the language of the post-9/11 laws, the nature of the program, and the robust oversight protocols imposed upon the program.