“How many individuals are going to have to — what they would see as — martyr themselves? But it’s not just renegade kids. Facebook, Google and others have pushed back on national security letters too,” she added.
Greenberg said she expected the fight would now move to Congress — where there is already some pushback against the powers of the NSA and the scale of the US’ surveillance operations — and from there to the legal system, perhaps one day ending up in the US Supreme Court. The legal system is already showing some signs of rebellion.
In a ruling released in March, US District Judge Susan Illston said that NSLs suffer from “significant constitutional defects” and violate the US First Amendment because of the way they effectively gag the companies that receive them.
“There is a lot of sentiment among Americans that they know they are being surveilled and what does it matter, but hounding people is going to have repercussions,” Greenberg said. “Knowing about PRISM and the NSA’s violations will sink in over time. Americans see privacy as one of their rights. What does it mean if you can’t encrypt anything? It’s a huge philosophical question with very large legal implications.”