“Because of Edward Snowden, there’s a perception -- which is not true -- but there’s a perception that we’re invading people’s privacy,” Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), explained last month. “This would presumably take care of that,” he added, referring to the USA Freedom Act, which he voted against in 2014 but now supports as a better alternative to a complete lapse of the Patriot Act.
Nelson isn’t the only Washington lawmaker who has struggled to articulate Snowden’s influence on the debate that has kept senators up late and away from home for two weekends now. It’s hard to give credit to someone you want imprisoned. But on Sunday night, as tempers frayed, vote-counters strategized, and Rand Paul talked, senators could no longer avoid talking about the ex-NSA contractor’s disclosures.
“It’s why we’re here,” Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chair of the Senate foreign relations committee and a fierce NSA defender, said of the Snowden disclosures. “People began creating a myth around it. That did occur. The public discourse around it created a myth about what this program is and what it isn’t.”
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who entered the Senate months before the Snowden leaks, agreed. “It is clear we wouldn’t be here without that information,” he said. “I’m not saying that there were violations of people’s civil liberties. There weren’t. But we certainly are taking a bigger role now in oversight.”