30-year-old American Edward Snowden, a contract employee at the National Security Agency, is the whistleblower behind significant revelations that surfaced in June 2013 about the US government's top secret, extensive domestic surveillance programmes. Snowden flew to Hong Kong from Hawaii in May 2013, and supplied confidential US government documents to media outlets including the Guardian.
Supporters decry absence of amnesty for Snowden in Obama's NSA speech
Supporters of Edward Snowden complained of a glaring omission in the White House's pledge on Friday to rein in government surveillance activities: amnesty for the fugitive leaker who's now holed up in Russia after revealing the secrets that led to this shake-up.
In news releases, on television and across social media, the former contractor's supporters drove home the message that the reforms announced on Friday came solely because of Snowden's unauthorised disclosures.
"Does Obama really think he'd be giving this speech or purporting to fix the broken NSA surveillance without Snowden's revelations? Please," Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth posted on his Twitter account.
Hours after Obama's announcement, The Huffington Post's homepage showed a photo of Snowden under a giant bold headline of just one word: "Vindicated." Civil libertarian and human rights groups, meanwhile, seized the moment to push for more protections for "whistle-blowers" like Snowden.
"Today's important discussion would not have happened if Edward Snowden hadn't thrust the scope of the government's activities into the open," said Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit advocacy group focused on exposing corruption and government misconduct.
Snowden, 30, kept his silence after Obama's speech. His reaction to the reforms would come this week, promised Julian Assange of the whistle-blower group WikiLeaks, which has assisted Snowden in his disclosures and travels.
In announcing the reforms, Obama repeated claims that Snowden's leaks might have caused long-term harm to US national security interests.