Privacy SOS

Edward Snowden: “We were involved in misleading the public.”

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Journalist Glenn Greenwald and filmmaker Laura Poitras have released another clip of video featuring NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, filmed in Hong Kong. Below is a transcript of the video from the two minute mark, when Snowden begins speaking about the content of the documents he leaked, revealing mass and indiscriminate NSA surveillance of the US and the world. [Bolded emphasis mine.]

Edward Snowden: America is a fundamentally good country. We have good people with good values who want to do the right thing. But the structures of power that exist are working to their own ends to extend their capability at the expense of the freedom of all publics.

Laura Poitras: Can you talk about what you think some of the most important primary documents are and what they reveal?

ES: The primary disclosures are the fact that the NSA doesn’t limit itself to foreign intelligence; it collects all communications that transit the United States. There are literally no ingress or egress points anywhere in the continental United States where communication would enter or exit without being monitored and collected and analyzed.

The Verizon document speaks highly to this because it literally lays out, they’re using an authority that was intended to be used to seek warrants against individuals, and they’re applying it to the whole of society by basically subverting a corporate partnership through major telecommunications providers and they’re getting everyone’s calls, everyone’s call records, and everyone’s internet traffic as well.

On top of that you’ve got BOUNDLESS INFORMANT, which is a, sort of a global auditing system for the NSA’s intercept and collection system, that lets us track how much we’re collecting, where we’re collecting, by which authorities and so forth. The NSA lied about the existence of this tool to Congress and to specific Congressmen, in response to previous inquiries to their surveillance activities.

Beyond that we’ve got PRISM, which is a demonstration of how the U.S. government co-opts U.S. corporate power to its own ends. Companies like Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, they all get together with the NSA and provide the NSA direct access to the back-ends of all of the systems you use to communicate, to store data, to put things in the cloud, and even just to send birthday wishes and keep a record of your life. And they give NSA direct access that they don’t need to oversee so they can't be held liable for it. I think that’s a dangerous capability for anybody to have, but particularly an organization that’s demonstrated time and time again that they’ll work to shield themselves from oversight.

Glenn Greenwald: Was there a specific point in time that you can point to when you crossed the line from contemplation to decision making and commitment to do this?

ES: I grew up with the understanding that the world I lived in was one where people enjoyed a sort-of freedom to communicate with each other in privacy, without it being monitored, without it being measured or analyzed or sort-of judged by these shadowy figures or systems. Anytime they mention anything that travels across public lines, I think a lot of people of my generation, anybody who grew up with the internet, that was their understanding. As we’ve seen the internet and government’s relation to the internet evolve over time, we’ve seen that sort-of open debate, that free market of ideas, sort-of loose its domain and be shrunk.

GG: But what is it about that set of developments that makes them sufficiently menacing or threatening to you that you are willing to risk what you’ve risked in order to fight them?

ES: I don’t want to live in a world where everything that I say, everything I do, everyone I talk to, every expression of creativity or love or friendship is recorded. That’s not something I’m willing to support, it’s not something I’m willing to build, and it’s not something I’m willing to live under. So I think anyone who opposes that sort of world has an obligation to act in a way they can. Now I’ve watched and waited and tried to do my job in the most policy driven way I could, which is to wait and allow other people, you know, wait and allow our leadership, our figures, to sort-of correct the excesses of government when we go too far. But as I’ve watched I’ve seen that’s not occurring, in fact we’re compounding the excesses of prior governments and making it worse and more invasive, and no one is really standing to stop it.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.