Snowden: ‘Truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped’ ‘Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American’

 

– Common Dreams staff

 

The NSA leaker, Edward Snowden, pictured in a Hong Kong hotel. (Photo: The Guardian)

At 11 AM EST today, The Guardian hosted a live question and answer session with the Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old former National Security Administrator contractor.

The transcript follows:

Glenn Greenwald
11:07am ET

Let’s begin with these:

1) Why did you choose Hong Kong to go to and then tell them about US hacking on their research facilities and universities?

2) How many sets of the documents you disclosed did you make, and how many different people have them? If anything happens to you, do they still exist?

Snowden’s Answer:

1) First, 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. That’s not justice, and it would be foolish to volunteer yourself to it if you can do more good outside of prison than in it.

‘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.’Second, let’s be clear: 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. Not only that, when NSA makes a technical mistake during an exploitation operation, critical systems crash. Congress hasn’t declared war on the countries – the majority of them are our allies – but without asking for public permission, NSA is running network operations against them that affect millions of innocent people. And for what? So we can have secret access to a computer in a country we’re not even fighting? So we can potentially reveal a potential terrorist with the potential to kill fewer Americans than our own Police? No, the public needs to know the kinds of things a government does in its name, or the “consent of the governed” is meaningless.

2) 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.

* * *

Ewen Macaskill
11:13am ET

I should have asked you this when I saw you but never got round to it……..Why did you just not fly direct to Iceland if that is your preferred country for asylum?

Snowden’s Answer:

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. Hong Kong provided that. Iceland could be pushed harder, quicker, before the public could have a chance to make their feelings known, and I would not put that past the current US administration.

* * *

ActivistGal
11:17am ET

You have said HERE that you admire both Ellsberg and Manning, but have argued that there is one important distinction between yourself and the army private…

“I carefully evaluated every single document I disclosed to ensure that each was legitimately in the public interest,” he said. “There are all sorts of documents that would have made a big impact that I didn’t turn over, because harming people isn’t my goal. Transparency is.”

Are you suggesting that Manning indiscriminately dumped secrets into the hands of Wikileaks and that he intended to harm people?

Snowden’s Answer:

No, I’m not. Wikileaks is a legitimate journalistic outlet and they carefully redacted all of their releases in accordance with a judgment of public interest. The unredacted release of cables was due to the failure of a partner journalist to control a passphrase. However, I understand that many media outlets used the argument that “documents were dumped” to smear Manning, and want to make it clear that it is not a valid assertion here.

* * *

D. Aram Mushegian II
11:20am

Did you lie about your salary? What is the issue there? Why did you tell Glenn Greenwald that your salary was $200,000 a year, when it was only $122,000 (according to the firm that fired you.)

Snowden’s Answer:

I was debriefed by Glenn and his peers over a number of days, and not all of those conversations were recorded. 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 was not the most I’ve been paid.

* * *

Gabrielaweb
11:23am ET

Why did you wait to release the documents if you said you wanted to tell the world about the NSA programs since before Obama became president?

Snowden’s Answer:

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.

* * *

Anthony De Rosa
11:27am ET

1.) Define in as much detail as you can what “direct access” means.

2.) Can analysts listen to content of domestic calls without a warrant?

Snowden’s Answer:

1.) More detail on how direct NSA’s accesses are is coming, but in general, the reality is this: if an NSA, FBI, CIA, DIA, etc analyst has access to query raw SIGINT databases, they can enter and get results for anything they want. Phone number, email, user id, cell phone handset id (IMEI), and so on – it’s all the same. The restrictions against this are policy based, not technically based, and can change at any time. Additionally, audits are cursory, incomplete, and easily fooled by fake justifications. For at least GCHQ, the number of audited queries is only 5% of those performed.

2.) 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 on the certification of an analyst rather than a warrant. They excuse this as “incidental” collection, but at the end of the day, someone at NSA still has the content of your communications. Even in the event of “warranted” intercept, it’s important to understand the intelligence community doesn’t always deal with what you would consider a “real” warrant like a Police department would have to, the “warrant” is more of a templated form they fill out and send to a reliable judge with a rubber stamp.

* * *

Glenn Greenwald follow-up:

When you say “someone at NSA still has the content of your communications” – what do you mean? Do you mean they have a record of it, or the actual content?

Snowden’s Answer:

Both. If I target for example an email address, for example under FAA 702, 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.

* * *

HaraldK
11:41am ET

What are your thoughts on Google’s and Facebook’s denials? Do you think that they’re honestly in the dark about PRISM, or do you think they’re compelled to lie?

Perhaps this is a better question to a lawyer like Greenwald, but: If you’re presented with a secret order that you’re forbidding to reveal the existence of, what will they actually do if you simply refuse to comply (without revealing the order)?

Snowden’s Answer:

Their denials went through several revisions as it become more and more clear they were misleading and included identical, specific language across companies. As a result of these disclosures and the clout of these companies, we’re finally beginning to see more transparency and better details about these programs for the first time since their inception.

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?

* * *

MonaHol
11:55am ET

Ed Snowden, I thank you for your brave service to our country.

Some skepticism exists about certain of your claims, including this:

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.

Do you stand by that, and if so, could you elaborate?

Snowden’s Answer:

‘Suspicion-less surveillance does not become okay simply because it’s only victimizing 95% of the world instead of 100%’Yes, I stand by it. US Persons do enjoy limited policy protections (and again, it’s important to understand that policy protection is no protection – policy is a one-way ratchet that only loosens) and one very weak technical protection – a near-the-front-end filter at our ingestion points. The filter is constantly out of date, is set at what is euphemistically referred to as the “widest allowable aperture,” and can be stripped out at any time. Even with the filter, US comms get ingested, and even more so as soon as they leave the border. Your protected communications shouldn’t stop being protected communications just because of the IP they’re tagged with.

More fundamentally, the “US Persons” protection in general is a distraction from the power and danger of this system. Suspicion-less surveillance does not become okay simply because it’s only victimizing 95% of the world instead of 100%. Our founders did not write that “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all US Persons are created equal.”

* * *

Spencer Ackerman
12:04pm ET

Edward, there is rampant speculation, outpacing facts, that you have or will provide classified US information to the Chinese or other governments in exchange for asylum. Have/will you?

Snowden’s Answer:

This is a predictable smear that I anticipated before going public, as the US media has a knee-jerk “RED CHINA!” reaction to anything involving HK or the PRC, and is intended to distract from the issue of US government misconduct. 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.

* * *

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