Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who fled to Hong Kong and leaked information about how the Obama administration collects millions of phone and internet records, participated in a Reddit-style “ask me anything” on the website of The Guardian today. Keeners followed along with the hashtag #AskSnowden on Twitter. For those who missed it, here are seven highlights.
1. Snowden says the NSA has access not only to records of communications but content too.
“If I target for example an email address… and that email address sent something to you, Joe America, the analyst gets it. All of it. IPs, raw data, content, headers, attachments, everything. And it gets saved for a very long time – and can be extended further with waivers rather than warrants.”
2. He suggests that any terrorism prevented by the programs has not been worth the cost.
“Journalists should ask a specific question: since these programs began operation shortly after September 11th, how many terrorist attacks were prevented SOLELY by information derived from this suspicionless surveillance that could not be gained via any other source? Then ask how many individual communications were ingested to acheive that, and ask yourself if it was worth it. Bathtub falls and police officers kill more Americans than terrorism, yet we’ve been asked to sacrifice our most sacred rights for fear of falling victim to it.”
3. He’s pleased that former Vice President Dick Cheney called him a traitor over the weekend.
This is a man who gave us the warrantless wiretapping scheme as a kind of atrocity warm-up on the way to deceitfully engineering a conflict that has killed over 4,400 and maimed nearly 32,000 Americans, as well as leaving over 100,000 Iraqis dead. Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American, and the more panicked talk we hear from people like him, Feinstein, and King, the better off we all are. If they had taught a class on how to be the kind of citizen Dick Cheney worries about, I would have finished high school.
4. He believes there was a risk that the U.S. would have killed him.
“…the US Government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me.”
5. He fled the U.S. because he believed he would not get a fair trial at home.
“…the US Government, just as they did with other whistleblowers, immediately and predictably destroyed any possibility of a fair trial at home, openly declaring me guilty of treason and that the disclosure of secret, criminal, and even unconstitutional acts is an unforgivable crime.”
6. There’s a reason he did not go to Iceland, where he said he would have preferred to seek asylum.
“Leaving the US was an incredible risk, as NSA employees must declare their foreign travel 30 days in advance and are monitored. There was a distinct possibility I would be interdicted en route, so I had to travel with no advance booking to a country with the cultural and legal framework to allow me to work without being immediately detained.”
7. He says he did not lie about a $200,000 salary, as was reported. (It was $122,000 at his last job.)
“The statement I made about earnings was that $200,000 was my “career high” salary. I had to take pay cuts in the course of pursuing specific work. Booz [Allen Hamilton] was not the most I’ve been paid…”