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  • My name’s Ed Snowden. I am 29 years old.

  • I work for Booz Allen Hamilton as an infrastructure analyst for NSA in Hawaii.

  • What are some of the positions that you held previously within the intelligence community?

  • I have been a systems engineer, a systems administrator,

  • a senior advisor for the Central Intelligence Agency,

  • a solutions consultant and a telecommunications information systems officer.

  • One of the things people are going to be most interested in,

  • in trying to understand who you are and what youre thinking,

  • is there came some point in time when you crossed this line of thinking about being a whistleblower

  • to making the choice to actually become a whistleblower.

  • Walk people through that decision-making process.

  • When you're positions of privileged access, like a systems administrator for this sort of intelligence community agencies,

  • you're exposed to a lot more information on a broader scale than the average employee

  • and because of that you see things that may be disturbing.

  • But over the course of a normal person's career, you'd only see one or two of these instances.

  • When you see everything, you see them on a more frequent basis

  • and you recognise that some of these things are actually abuses.

  • And when you talk to people about them, in a place like this, where this is the normal state of business,

  • people tend not to take them very seriously and, you know, move on from them.

  • But over time that awareness of wrongdoing sort of builds up, and you feel compelled to talk about it.

  • And the more you talk about it, the more you're ignored, the more you're told it's not a problem,

  • until eventually you realise that these things need to be determined by the public,

  • not by somebody who was simply hired by the government.

  • Talk a little bit about how the American surveillance state actually functions. Does it target the actions of Americans?

  • NSA, and the intelligence community in general, is focused on getting intelligence wherever it can, by any means possible,

  • and it believes, on the grounds of a sort of self-certification, that they serve the national interest.

  • Originally, we saw that focus very narrowly tailored as foreign intelligence gathered overseas.

  • Now, increasingly, we see that it's happening domestically.

  • And to do that, they, the NSA specifically, targets the communications of everyone.

  • It ingests them by default.

  • It collects them in its system, and it filters them, and it analyses them, and it measures them, and it stores them for periods of time,

  • simply because that's the easiest, most efficient and most valuable way to achieve these ends.

  • So while they may be intending to target someone associated with a foreign government

  • or someone that they suspect of terrorism, they're collecting your communications to do so.

  • Any analyst at any time can target anyone, any selector anywhere.

  • Where those communications will be picked up depends on the range of the sensor networks

  • and the authorities that the analyst is empowered with. Not all analysts have the ability to target everything.

  • But I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone,

  • from you or your accountant to a federal judge,

  • to even the president, if I had a personal email.

  • One of the extraordinary parts about this episode is that usually whistleblowers do what they do anonymously

  • and take steps to remain anonymous for as long as they can, which they hope, often, is forever.

  • You, on the other hand, have this attitude of the opposite, which is to declare yourself openly as the person behind these disclosures.

  • Why did you choose to do that?

  • I think that the public is owed an explanation of the motivations behind the people who make these disclosures that are outside of the democratic model.

  • When you are subverting the power of government, that's a fundamentally dangerous thing to democracy.

  • And if you do that in secret, consistently, you know, as the government does when it wants to benefit from a secret action that it took,

  • it will kind of give its officials a mandate to go, "Hey, you know, tell the press about this thing and that thing so the public is on our side".

  • But they rarely, if ever, do that when an abuse occurs. That falls to individual citizens.

  • But they're typically maligned. You know, it becomes a thing of,

  • these people are against the country, they're against the government. But I'm not.

  • I'm no different from anybody else. I don't have special skills.

  • I'm just another guy who sits there, day-to-day, in the office, and watches what's happening, and goes,

  • "This is something that's not our place to decide. The public needs to decide whether these programs and policies are right or wrong".

  • And I'm willing to go on the record to defend the authenticity of them and say, "I didn't change these. I didn't modify the story.

  • This is the truth. This is what's happening. You should decide whether we need to be doing this."

  • Have you given thought to what it is that the U.S. government’s response to your conduct is,

  • in terms of what they might say about you, how they might try to depict you, what they might try to do to you?

  • Yeah, I could be, you know, rendered by the CIA.

  • I could have people come after me or any of their third-party partners.

  • You know, they work closely with a number of other nations.

  • Or, you know, they could pay off the triads. Or any of their agents or assets.

  • We've got a CIA station just up the road, and the consulate here in Hong Kong

  • and I am sure they are going to be very busy for the next week.

  • And that's a fear I'll live under for the rest of my life, however long that happens to be.

  • You can't come forward against the world's most powerful intelligence agencies and be completely free from risk,

  • because they're such powerful adversaries, that no one can meaningfully oppose them.

  • If they want to get you, they'll get you, in time.

  • But, at the same time, you have to make a determination about what it is that's important to you.

  • And if living, living unfreely but comfortably is something you're willing to accept

  • and I think many of us are, it's the human nature

  • you can get up every day, you can 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 realise that that's the world that you helped create,

  • and it's going to get worse with the next generation and the next generation,

  • who extend the capabilities of this sort of architecture of oppression,

  • you realise 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.

  • Why should people care about surveillance?

  • Because, even if you're not doing anything wrong, you're being watched and recorded.

  • And the storage capability of the systems increases every year, consistently, by orders of magnitude

  • to where it's getting to the point 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 the system to go back in time and scrutinise every decision you've ever made

  • every friend you've ever discussed something with

  • and attack you on that basis, to sort of derive suspicion

  • from an innocent life and paint anyone in the context of a wrongdoer.

  • We are currently sitting in a room in Hong Kong

  • which is where we are because you travelled here.

  • Talk a little bit about why it is that you came here.

  • And specifically, there are going to be people who will speculate

  • that what you really intend to do is to defect to the country that many see as the number one rival of the United States

  • which is China, and that what you're really doing is essentially seeking to aid an enemy of the United States

  • with which you intend to seek asylum. Can you talk a little bit about that?

  • Sure.

  • So there's a couple assertions in those arguments

  • that are sort of embedded in the questioning of the choice of Hong Kong.

  • The first is that China is an enemy of the United States. It's not.

  • I mean, there are conflicts between the United States government and the Chinese PRC government.

  • But the peoples, inherently, we don't care. We trade with each other freely. We're not at war.

  • We're not in armed conflict and we're not trying to be. We're the largest trading partners out there for each other.

  • Additionally, Hong Kong has a strong tradition of free speech.

  • People think, "Oh, China, great firewall". Mainland China does have significant restrictions on free speech but

  • the people of Hong Kong have a long tradition of protesting in the streets, of making their views known.

  • The Internet is not filtered here

  • no more so than any other Western government.

  • And I believe that the Hong Kong government is actually independent in relation to a lot of other leading Western governments.

  • If your motive had been to harm the United States and help its enemies, or if your motive had been personal material gain,

  • were there things that you could have done with these documents to advance those goals that you didn’t end up doing?

  • Oh, absolutely. I mean, anybody in the positions of access with the technical capabilities that I had

  • could, you know, suck out secrets, pass them on the open market to Russia. You know, they always have an open door, as we do.

  • I had access to, you know, the full rosters of everyone working at the NSA, the entire intelligence community,

  • and undercover assets all around the world, the locations of every station we have, what their missions are and so forth.

  • If I had just wanted to harm the U.S., you knowyou could shut down the surveillance system in an afternoon.

  • But that’s not my intention. And I think, for anyone making that argument,

  • they need to think, if they were in my position,

  • and, you know, you live a privileged lifeyoure living in Hawaii, in Paradise, and making a ton of money

  • what would it take to make you leave everything behind?

  • The greatest fear that I have regarding the outcome for America of these disclosures is that nothing will change.

  • People will see in the media all of these disclosures.

  • Theyll know the lengths that the government is going to grant themselves powers, unilaterally,

  • to create greater control over American society and global society,

  • but they won’t be willing to take the risks necessary to stand up and fight to change things,

  • to force their representatives to actually take a stand in their interests.

  • And the months ahead, the years ahead, it’s only going to get worse,

  • until eventually there will be a time where policies will change,

  • because the only thing that restricts the activities of the surveillance state are policy.

  • Even our agreements with other sovereign governments,

  • we consider that to be a stipulation of policy rather than a stipulation of law.

  • And because of that, a new leader will be elected, theyll flip the switch, say that

  • because of the crisis, because of the dangers that we face in the world, you know, some new and unpredicted threat,

  • we need more authority, we need more power, and there will be nothing the people can do at that point to oppose it

  • and itll be turnkey tyranny.

My name’s Ed Snowden. I am 29 years old.

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NSA leaker by Edward Snowden

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    Zenn posted on 2013/06/30
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