The most famous man on the lam, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, has answered reader questions in a live Q&A on the Guardian’s blog. Snowden skyrocketed to international fame/infamy after leaking a top-secret program about monitoring Americans’ online behavior.
After disappearing from his Hong Kong hideaway, Snowden resurfaced for the online Q&A. You can read the full transcript on The Guardian; we’ve summarized the best of it below (edited for brevity and clarity).
Passion, Righteous Passion
“All I can say right now is the US Government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me. Truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped.”
On Tech Company Denials
“Their denials went through several revisions as it become more and more clear they were misleading and included identical, specific language across companies….They are legally compelled to comply and maintain their silence in regard to specifics of the program, but that does not comply them from ethical obligation. If for example Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Apple refused to provide this cooperation with the Intelligence Community, what do you think the government would do? Shut them down?”
On Traitor Accusations
“I did not reveal any US operations against legitimate military targets. I pointed out where the NSA has hacked civilian infrastructure such as universities, hospitals, and private businesses because it is dangerous. These nakedly, aggressively criminal acts are wrong no matter the target….I have had no contact with the Chinese government. Just like with the Guardian and the Washington Post, I only work with journalists.”
“Further, it’s important to bear in mind I’m being called a traitor by men like former Vice President Dick Cheney…Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American”
Encryption Works, Kind Of
“Encryption works. Properly implemented strong crypto systems are one of the few things that you can rely on. Unfortunately, endpoint security is so terrifically weak that NSA can frequently find ways around it.”
Context: There are several popular applications to skirt government snooping, but none are perfect. Apple claims, for instance, that because only the sender and receiver of an iMessage SMS can decrypt the data on their respective devices (end-to-end decryption), their service is NSA-proof. End-to-end encryption is far more difficult when the sender and receiver are using different services that may be tapped by the NSA. For secure Internet surfing, the popular anonymous web browser TOR has a thorough how-to blog post. But, if Snowden is to be believed, the NSA has ways of finding most people even with encrypted services.
Mainstream Media: Hot Girlfriend > Massive Surveillance
“Unfortunately, the mainstream media now seems far more interested in what I said when I was 17 or what my girlfriend looks like rather than, say, the largest program of suspicionless surveillance in human history.”
Mandatory pat-on-the-back: TechCrunch has never posted pictures of Snowden’s girlfriend (and, no, we’re not going to link to them either).
Hope, We Believed In It. Now, not so much
“Obama’s campaign promises and election gave me faith that he would lead us toward fixing the problems he outlined in his quest for votes. Many Americans felt similarly. Unfortunately, shortly after assuming power, he closed the door on investigating systemic violations of law, deepened and expanded several abusive programs, and refused to spend the political capital to end the kind of human rights violations like we see in Guantanamo, where men still sit without charge.”
NSA and Warrant-less Monitoring
“NSA likes to use “domestic” as a weasel word here for a number of reasons. The reality is that due to the FISA Amendments Act and its section 702 authorities, Americans’ communications are collected and viewed on a daily basis … “warrant” is more of a templated form they fill out and send to a reliable judge with a rubber stamp.”
No, He Really Isn’t A Spy
“Ask yourself: if I were a Chinese spy, why wouldn’t I have flown directly into Beijing? I could be living in a palace petting a phoenix by now.”