Snowden support signs
A Washington, D.C. rally in December, 2013 supported Snowden. Photo from Shutterstock

Published: May 29th, 2014

Whether you agree Edward Snowden’s revelations of the extent of U.S. electronic surveillance is right, his interview this week with NBC’s Brian Williams has renewed the debate on how far governments should go in grabbing metadata as well as actual conversations without a warrant.

“I may have lost my ability to travel,” Snowden said from Moscow, where he fled after leaving the U.S.. “But I’ve gained the ability to go to sleep at night and to put my head on the pillow and feel comfortable that I’ve done the right thing even when it was the hard thing. And I’m comfortable with that.”

His revelations not only included what the U.S. government agencies have done, but also those in Canada.

In the interview Snowden said he tried to go through channels at the National Security Agency, where he was working as a contractor, to protest the surveillance. But he says he was told to “stop asking questions.”

There is no doubt that the vast amount of data that flows through telecommunications providers can be of tremendous value to law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Canadian agencies are no different, as reports have shown, with the Communications Security Establishment scooping up metadata from Wi-Fi signals at Canadian airports for examination.

But without restraint governments throughout history have shown that collecting information becomes a drug.