Edward Snowden Takes To Reddit For An ‘Ask Me Anything’ Session
Last night, famed whistle-blower Edward Snowden took to internet forum Reddit to take part in one of the website's Ask Me Anything (AMA) sessions. Snowden appeared alongside journalist Glenn Greenwald and film maker Laura Poitras. Greenwald has been instrumental in disseminating the files Snowden leaked that revealed the extent of surveillance undertaken by America's National Security Agency, whilst Poitras has just won an Academy Award for Citizen Four, her documentary about the leaks and the subsequent fall out.
Reddit being Reddit, the questions members fired at Snowden veered from serious interrogation of his motives, to goofing about with memes. Snowden was candid in his responses – at one point voicing regret at not coming forward sooner with his knowledge, writing that:
"Had I come forward a little sooner, these programs would have been a little less entrenched, and those abusing them would have felt a little less familiar with and accustomed to the exercise of those powers. This is something we see in almost every sector of government, not just in the national security space, but it's very important:
"Once you grant the government some new power or authority, it becomes exponentially more difficult to roll it back. Regardless of how little value a program or power has been shown to have (such as the Section 215 dragnet interception of call records in the United States, which the government's own investigation found never stopped a single imminent terrorist attack despite a decade of operation), once it's a sunk cost, once dollars and reputations have been invested in it, it's hard to peel that back."
"Don't let it happen in your country."
He also comprehensively refuted claims that he had been working as a Russian spy –
"What sense does that make? If I were a Russian spy, why go to Hong Kong? It would have been an unacceptable risk. And further – why give any information to journalists at all, for that matter, much less so much and of such importance? Any intelligence value it would have to the Russians would be immediately compromised."
"If I were a spy for the Russians, why the hell was I trapped in any airport for a month? I would have gotten a parade and a medal instead."
"The reality is I spent so long in that damn airport because I wouldn't play ball and nobody knew what to do with me. I refused to cooperate with Russian intelligence in any way (see my testimony to EU Parliament on this one if you're interested), and that hasn't changed."
"At this point, I think the reason I get away with it is because of my public profile. What can they really do to me? If I show up with broken fingers, everybody will know what happened."
No doubt the various intelligence agencies closely scrutinising the session would have been interested to read Snowden post a comment that essential amounted to an outright call for civil disobedience –
"Ultimately, if people lose their willingness to recognize that there are times in our history when legality becomes distinct from morality, we aren't just ceding control of our rights to government, but our agency in determing our futures."
"I suspect that governments today are more concerned with the loss of their ability to control and regulate the behavior of their citizens than they are with their citizens' discontent…"
"We can devise means, through the application and sophistication of science, to remind governments that if they will not be responsible stewards of our rights, we the people will implement systems that provide for a means of not just enforcing our rights, but removing from governments the ability to interfere with those rights."
"You can see the beginnings of this dynamic today in the statements of government officials complaining about the adoption of encryption by major technology providers. The idea here isn't to fling ourselves into anarchy and do away with government, but to remind the government that there must always be a balance of power between the governing and the governed, and that as the progress of science increasingly empowers communities and individuals, there will be more and more areas of our lives where — if government insists on behaving poorly and with a callous disregard for the citizen — we can find ways to reduce or remove their powers on a new — and permanent — basis."
"Our rights are not granted by governments. They are inherent to our nature. But it's entirely the opposite for governments: their privileges are precisely equal to only those which we suffer them to enjoy."
"We haven't had to think about that much in the last few decades because quality of life has been increasing across almost all measures in a significant way, and that has led to a comfortable complacency. But here and there throughout history, we'll occasionally come across these periods where governments think more about what they "can" do rather than what they "should" do, and what is lawful will become increasingly distinct from what is moral."
You can read the rest of the thread over on Reddit here