Edward Snowden, the former government contractor who leaked top-secret documents about the NSA's extraordinarily broad digital surveillance program, intended to release his identity all along. Here's an interview he conducted with journalist Glenn Greenwald—about why he did what he did—at his current refuge in Hong Kong.
You can read the transcript here. An excerpt:
Snowden: You can't come forward against the world's most powerful intelligence agencies and be completely free from risk... But at the same time you have to make a determination about what it is that's important to you. And if living unfreely but comfortably is something you're willing to accept, and I think it many of us are it's the human nature; you can get up everyday, go to work, you can collect your large paycheck for relatively little work against the public interest, and go to sleep at night after watching your shows.
But if you realize that that's the world you helped create and it's gonna get worse with the next generation and the next generation who extend the capabilities of this sort of architecture of oppression, you realize that you might be willing to accept any risk and it doesn't matter what the outcome is so long as the public gets to make their own decisions about how that's applied.
Greenwald: Why should people care about surveillance?
Snowden: Because even if you're not doing anything wrong you're being watched and recorded. And the storage capability of these systems increases every year consistently by orders of magnitude to where it's getting to the point where you don't have to have done anything wrong. You simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody even by a wrong call. And then they can use this system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you've ever made, every friend you've ever discussed something with. And attack you on that basis to sort to derive suspicion from an innocent life and paint anyone in the context of a wrongdoer.
Earlier today, Charles wrote that state surveillance is inevitable (which might be true) and that it is no different from corporate surveillance for marketing purposes—which is clearly untrue. There is a mighty difference between more targeted advertising techniques and undermining constitutional protection against unwarranted search and seizure, not to mention the chilling effects against free speech and association.
From the ACLU:
With this sensitive data, the government can compile vast dossiers about innocent people. The data sits indefinitely in government databases, and the names of many innocent Americans end up on bloated and inaccurate watch lists that affect whether we can fly on commercial airlines, whether we can renew our passports, whether we are called aside for “secondary screening” at airports and borders, and even whether we can open bank accounts.
Dragnet surveillance undermines the right to privacy and the freedoms of speech, association, and religion.
Get the best of the Mercury each week in your inbox!