NSA leaks fueled needed debate: Snowden

NSA leaks fueled needed debate: Snowden

Summary: Edward Snowden has told the SXSW conference that "every society in the world has benefited" from the debate on surveillance.


Former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden says he has no regrets over his leaks about mass surveillance programs, saying they sparked a needed public debate on spying and data collection.

Snowden, who spoke via video link from Russia to the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, said he revealed the programs of the US National Security Agency and other such services to foster "a better civic understanding" about what had been secret programs.

He said his decision to leak documents to journalists "wasn't so I could single handedly change the government; what I wanted to do was inform the public so they could provide their consent to what we should do."

Snowden, a former NSA contractor who has been in hiding in Russia and has been charged in the United States with espionage, maintained that "every society in the world has benefited" from the debate on surveillance.

"Regardless of what happens to me, this is something we have a right to know," he said on the link with members of the American Civil Liberties Union, who noted that the hookup was routed through seven proxy servers to keep his location secure.

Snowden, who appeared against a backdrop of a giant copy of the US constitution, said the NSA programs have fundamentally altered the rights outlined in the charter.

"The interpretation of the constitution has been changed from 'no unreasonable searches and seizures', to 'any seizure is fine, just don't search it','" he said.

Snowden said he chose to speak to SXSW because he believes it is important to encourage technology companies to make changes to stem mass surveillance.

"The people who are in the room in Austin right now, they are the folks who can really fix things through technical standards," he said.

Snowden said more companies should adopt robust encryption that is built into communications without users having to use complex technical tools.

He maintained that if encryption is too complex, "people aren't going to use it; it has to happen automatically, it has to happen seamlessly."

If online communications are fully encrypted at all stages, Snowden said, bulk data collection would become too difficult for intelligence agencies.

He also said the NSA and other agencies have devoted too many resources to this type of bulk collection and not enough to traditional methods to catch criminals and terrorists.

"We've had tremendous intelligence failures because we are monitoring everybody's communications, instead of suspects," he said.

He cited the Boston marathon bombings as an example, saying "if we hadn't spent so much on mass surveillance, if we followed traditional models, we might have caught" the suspects.

Topics: Security, Government, Privacy

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  • Democracy means openness.

    Unfortunately many 'democratic' and 'open' countries failed to do so. But its not too late to right the wrong
    • I'm not so sure that it is not too late

      To fix things without a second Civil War in the United States and governments being physically castigated by their citizens in the rest of the world.
      Non-violent protest seems to do little to nothing, the NSA and Congress just spin,spin,spin and nothing gets changed at all.
  • I wonder...

    ... if his comments were written by or just cleared by the KG.. I mean FSB.
  • Definitely started a needed debate

    Were Mr. Snowden's actions illegal? Definitely. Were they appropriate? I don't know.

    Despite Mr. Snowden's denials, I can't believe that Vladimir Putin didn't extract a price for granting him asylum. As a KDB/FSB veteran, he is a man who understands the value of good intelligence and is not known as a great humanitarian. At the very least, I'm sure Mr. Snowden was interrogated by the FSB, and that Mr. Putin was satisfied with the answers given.
    John L. Ries