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Excellent interview with Snowden

For any who have not seen it already, there is a very good interview with Edward Snowden on the Guardian website.

33 comments to Excellent interview with Snowden

  • Synwave

    Yes very good interview. He really is his own best advocate, so palpably not a nutjob or moonbat. He is everything the deeply flawed Assange is not.

  • Mr Ed

    The Guardian finds a hero in Moscow, old news…. ;-)

  • RogerC

    From the article:

    “What last year’s revelations showed us was irrefutable evidence that unencrypted communications on the internet are no longer safe.”

    I thought that the most significant thing “last year’s revelations” showed is that encrypted communications aren’t enough to protect you either. I doubt that anyone who understood the subject was terribly surprised that the NSA and GCHQ could read any specific individual’s unencrypted emails if they wanted to. That capability isn’t terribly shocking, on a par with tapping a suspect’s phone and in principle governable by use of warrants etc.

    What was news to me (although maybe I was just behind the curve) is the extent to which they now rely on traffic analysis to identify potential suspects, rather than on the content of specific communications. Simply knowing who you talk to, when and how can reveal a huge amount of information about you, without the necessity of reading your emails at all, making encryption almost redundant.

    Even traffic analysis methods could be made subject to warrants etc. If they were used to investigate the contacts of a specific target identified by the warrant, using data collected after the warrant came into force, then it would be no different from any other sort of targeted surveillance. However, surveillance is being done in an indiscriminate manner using data which is constantly being collected on individuals who are under no suspicion. Every last one of us is having their communications metadata (at least) collected and stored.

    That’s what should really be worrying people. Not that they can put you under electronic surveillance and that they have methods which work even against perfect encryption, but that they can do it to anyone, at any time, with no oversight.

    It’s been said that this sort of surveillance is not like someone opening your mail, tapping your phone or breaking into your house. That’s correct, it’s not. It’s much more like having someone follow you every time you step out of the house, carefully noting down where you shop (but not what you buy), who you speak to (but not what was said) and who you do business with (but not what was done) and what time all of it happened. Then carefully filing it all away, just in case they want to use it against you later.

    Incidentally, I’m no fan of Snowden himself. I think the odds are good that his motives were not altruistic and that he had links with Russia from the start. However, the claims he made about the behaviour of our intelligence agencies have not been refuted.

  • I make no apologies for the fact I think it is Snowden’s critics who are the idiots… useful idiots serving the interests of far and away the greatest threat to liberty since the end of the Cold War.

    Indeed it is a great pity so many otherwise intelligent people cannot adjust to the reality that the Cold War indeed over, and it is not the Reds who are under the bed, but rather GCHQ and the NSA.

  • Mr Ed

    I agree Perry, look at NATO, casting round for a reason to continue in existence, we have had battles in all manner of places under its umbrella. A bureaucracy looking for a reason to justify its budget and the willing politicians who support it the greatest threat to my freedom or privacy.

    I would treat Mr Snowden’s words with caution, but he has a lot to say, and the gravest threat to any American is the US government. And compared to Mr Assange, the Mr Humphries of civil liberties, he comes across as someone with more gravitas than ego.

  • Given that Snowden’s words have been vindicated over and over again, Mr.Ed, he is one of the few people whose words I am really not that cautious about accepting

  • Mr Ed

    I was thinking about how happy he is and how he ended up where he was, his motives and plans, not his revelations.

  • Ok lets figure out why he ended up in Russia:

    1. Reveal the panoptic dystopia that the most powerful nation in human history has visited upon the world.
    2. Get arse somewhere said most powerful nation in human history cannot make you disappear, which pretty much has to be somewhere that is willing and able to say “go fuck yourself” to said most powerful nation.

    List of bolt holes upon planet that might qualify:

    North Korea – Essentially an open air prison so… no. Plus nuclear weapons probably a myth.

    Iran – Great food but Islamic. And not much Internet. Plus nuclear weapons probably a myth, Spec Ops might come get you.

    Venezuela – Oil producing but so fucked up the power keeps going off. Does not have nukes, Spec Ops might come get you.

    Cuba – impoverished shithole with no internet. Does not have nukes, Spec Ops might come get you (but probably not)

    China – (i.e. Hong Kong) – Has nukes, credible “go fuck yourself”. Hong Kong, supremely cool First World enclave, good food, great place but… tried that however Beijing looked like they were wobbling under US pressure, so…

    Russia – Has nukes, credible “go fuck yourself”. Pretty much the only viable option left. Food sucks but has internet and actually enjoys telling USA to go fuck themselves. Russia it is.

    And yes, I would be happy not to be in a US jail with zero chance of getting a fair trial too. I would also be pretty damn happy to know I had won. The cat is out of the bag and the world will never be quite the same.

  • Laird

    I agree with Perry’s assessment, and with his list. The only comment I would make is that if Snowden had chosen China/Hong Kong as his refuge he would be receiving the identical criticism (and perhaps even worse) that he is now receiving for having chosen Russia. Giving Snowden asylum is tantamount to sticking your finger in Uncle Sam’s eye. Few people on this planet other than Putin have the balls (and the power) to do that.

    I also agree with RogerC’s comment, with the exception of the last paragraph. Snowden responds to the allegation that he had “links to Russia from the start” in the interview, making the cogent point that if he had given Russia any sensitive information the US would know about it (via previous sources going dark, etc.), and that it would have been on the front page of the New York Times in a heartbeat. Snowden has acted eminently responsibly and patriotically from the first.

  • ragingnick

    Regardless of the right and wrongs of US government surveillance, I think that when you choose Vladimir Putin and The Guardian newspaper as best friends you lose any right to claim the moral high ground.

  • ragingnick: before commenting, it is usually a good idea to read previous comments made, as they may address the very point you are about to make.

  • Mr Ed

    ragngnick’s point is good, not unlike a Portuguese dissident in 1937 going to Moscow to denounce Salazar to Stalin’s delight.

  • ragngnick’s point is good

    No, it is a terrible point, for exactly the reasons already laid out. My views of Putin are well know as I have blogged about him often and been very unflattering. I have almost made a blogging career out of slagging off the Guardian as a haven of fluorescent idiocy and pro-tyranny collectivism. And I still think that. Fortunately, like many leftie institutions, the Guardian can be inconsistent and not actually think through the logical end point of many of their positions. Thus they have covered themselves in glory by enabling a certain Ron Paul supporter currently hiding in Russia, even whilst arguing for statist abridgements of several liberty on a daily basis on other topics.

    If the Telegraph and the Washington Times would have run with it, that would have been better. But both papers are filled with people who more or less worship the Security State, so… just as he ended up in Russia because that was the only realistic option to a US prison, he went to the Guardian because if he actually wanted to get the story out, he needed a newspaper who not only did not worship the Security State (at least not consistently), he needed a paper who also actually quite enjoys saying “go fuck yourself” to the USA. This is often (indeed usually) something the Guardian does for all the wrong reasons, but on this occasion that reflexive anti-Americanism actually served the cause of liberty mightily (i.e. a willingness to get the Snowden revelation out and thereby kick the Uncle Sam in the bollocks).

    To criticise him for doing what it takes to actually be effective (ie working with the anti-American Guardian and hiding in anti-American Russia whilst taking on the American state) means you actually do not think the panoptic works of NSA/GCHQ should have been exposed. Yes it really does mean that.

    And if anyone again says he should have gone to Rand Paul, well, thank goodness he did not.

  • Bruce Hoult

    While I agree with most of Perry’s points, I have to take issue with Russian food sucking! Maybe compared to Hong Kong. More likely perhaps in terms of quality of ingredients, but I’ve eaten quite a bit of Russian food made in NZ with NZ ingredients and enjoyed it very much.

  • Michael Brazier

    We must distinguish. What Snowden would have suffered, had he remained within the reach of the US government, was arrest, trial and conviction for the charge of betraying the confidence of the US government. What Snowden claims he is evading is death or imprisonment without a trial – only a threat that dire would compel him to run to America’s declared enemies. For his declared purposes, a public trial would be a better tool than the protection of a tyrant.

    The difficulty with his claim is that, if it were true, the publishers and reporters of the Guardian would now be in just as much peril of their lives as Snowden himself would; and yet they remain on British territory, evincing no fear that US police will make them disappear – or even that UK police will. (Isn’t it true, BTW, that the UK’s Official Secrets Act provides for criminal penalties for publishing actions taken by GCHQ? Rather stricter ones than the equivalent US law?)

    Ergo, I don’t believe that Snowden’s claim that he would not be tried is correct; and I would find it far easier to accept him as a martyr to liberty if he had stayed to face his trial, and used that trial to argue the iniquity of the law that he would be convicted of breaking. That would be civil disobedience.

    None of the above has any bearing on the NSA’s sins, or on whether Snowden was morally correct in exposing them. The question is simply whether the US government causes those who expose its secrets to disappear unheard.

  • And, he did not turn to the Guardian per se either – rather, he turned to specific journalists (not all were from the Guardian) whom he thought like-minded and trustworthy enough to help him advance his agenda. The fact that this agenda ended up being promoted by that specific paper, speaks more of the sorry state of the MSM in both the US and the UK than it does about Snowden.

    The difficulty with his claim is that, if it were true, the publishers and reporters of the Guardian would now be in just as much peril of their lives as Snowden himself would; and yet they remain on British territory, evincing no fear that US police will make them disappear – or even that UK police will.

    No difficulty there whatsoever: the Guardian staff involved in this remain unharmed precisely because Snowden remains out of reach of the US government.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Re Perry’s list, I think Canada might have been a viable haven for Snowden. The problem is that “might” is nothing to bet your arse on.

  • Alisa deals with the ‘remain at large’ issue very well. But I would also add this:

    For his declared purposes, a public trial would be a better tool than the protection of a tyrant.

    No. Far from it. The thing that makes Snowden so effective is that by being at large, he keeps the story in the news and stops it vanishing down the memory hole. As he mentions in the interview, he would not be permitted to mount a ‘public interest’ defence. Thus it would be a short trial: is Snowden ‘guilty’ of revealing the state secret of unconstitutional and tyrannous behaviours that make the USA a massive threat to global security? Yes, he is indeed ‘guilty’ of that…

    …whoosh, he vanishes from the courtroom so fast it is like an episode of The Flash…

    …and the next time anyone will hear of Snowden will be in thirty years (Edward Who?) when his death in prison gets reported on some obscure website that probably spells his name wrongly, by which time panoptic surveillance will be the new normal.

    So the thing that makes Snowden the NSA/GCHQ’s worst nightmare is that HE WILL NOT GO AWAY. Moreover unlike the deeply flawed and sometimes philosophically confused Assange, or the gay transvestite Bradley Manning, Snowden was a Republican Ron Paul supporter who is a straight guy, and he comes across, as the first comment in this thread points out, as the very antithesis of a nutjob moonbat.

    Long may he remain at large. And if he ever returns to the USA, it should be to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, not a jail cell.

  • All the best cooks in Moscow are from the Caucasus. Georgian and Armenian food will make you fat, but it is delicious. God help you if you are a vegetarian, though.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Michael Brazier
    July 19, 2014 at 3:32 am
    The question is simply whether the US government causes those who expose its secrets to disappear unheard.

    If it does, how would we know? The fate of whistleblowers who’ve stayed within official channels isn’t reassuring.

  • bloke in spain

    ” I would find it far easier to accept him as a martyr to liberty if he had stayed to face his trial, and used that trial to argue the iniquity of the law that he would be convicted of breaking. That would be civil disobedience.”

    And spend the rest of his life seeing four walls & a prison guard. Isn’t never seeing his home again & living at the whim of a foreign power enough martyrdom for you? The trouble with martyrdom is, it’s only glorious when it happens to someone else.

  • Michael Brazier

    the Guardian staff involved in this remain unharmed precisely because Snowden remains out of reach of the US government.

    How does Snowden’s being in Russia help the Guardian staff? It’s not as if their identities were secret, or his testimony were legally required to incriminate them in court. If the US government were as ruthless as he implies, of course they would go after Snowden’s accomplices, even if – especially if – they couldn’t reach the man himself. That’s what tyrants do.

    The truth is, the Guardian has not been molested for publishing the NSA’s secrets for the same reason that the New York Times wasn’t prosecuted for publishing the Pentagon Papers. Once a secret has been shouted from the rooftops, putting the shouter in prison only makes him more visible and credible. Snowden’s current location is totally irrelevant to the Guardian’s safety.

    …whoosh, he vanishes from the courtroom so fast it is like an episode of The Flash… …and the next time anyone will hear of Snowden will be in thirty years

    Alfred Dreyfus spent five years in prison on Devil’s Island. That didn’t keep his name out of public awareness.

    The truth is, Edward Snowden would have as much access to the Western press if he were sitting in a federal prison than he does now from Moscow – do you seriously suppose that the Guardian’s reporters could be kept from him, if they wanted to see him? The difference is that, if he were in US prison, Snowden could not be plausibly accused of spying for a foreign power.

  • Laird

    ” I would find it far easier to accept him as a martyr to liberty if he had stayed to face his trial, and used that trial to argue the iniquity of the law that he would be convicted of breaking. That would be civil disobedience.”

    So only someone willing to accept martyrdom is worthy of your support, Michael? I would turn that around: if that is truly your belief, you are not worthy of his sacrifice. Because sacrifice it truly is.

    And to my knowledge he has never said that he fears death or disappearance without trial at the hands of the US government, although many of us believe that to be a serious risk; if the US government ever gets its hands on him he will likely disappear into a Guantanamo cell. But that’s just my opinion; what Snowden himself has said is that he could not get a fair trial here because he would be prohibited from putting on an effective defense. He wouldn’t be allowed to argue that the public interest was served by his disclosures (which it clearly was), and in all probability the government would scream “national security” and prevent him from offering any documentary defenses.

    As to the Guardian not being “molested” for publishing the NSA’s secrets, I don’t know what you consider molestation but I would submit that having their computers and hard drives physically destroyed by GCHQ (as if that made any sense whatsoever) should certainly qualify. And Greenwald’s partner was interdicted and held incommunicado at Heathrow for every last minute British law allowed, and his electronic devices seized (and not returned), all without any charge. That should scare anyone with a reasonable concern for civil liberties.

  • How does Snowden’s being in Russia help the Guardian staff?

    Easy. To cut off the drip drip drip of revelations, they need to stop Snowden having access to *all* journalists. Unless they arrest every journalist who is willing to deal with him (good luck with that), there is simply no point in arresting the Guardian people, even if they have been harassed. Plenty more where they came from.

    The truth is, Edward Snowden would have as much access to the Western press if he were sitting in a federal prison than he does now from Moscow

    Really? And you figure that how? Just as easy to set up a press event or have Snowden address, say, a bunch of German politicians via video stream from inside a US jail? Just as easily to launch some event such as Snowden saying what he thinks of the latest developments in UK Spying Laws the way he did?

    – do you seriously suppose that the Guardian’s reporters could be kept from him, if they wanted to see him?

    Yes. Just state ‘for reasons of national security’. Done. This is the Patriot Act world we live in. Moreover members of the US establishment have openly called for Snowden’s death, but of course he has nothing at all to fear from placing himself at the pleasure of the US state, eh? Really?

    The difference is that, if he were in US prison, Snowden could not be plausibly accused of spying for a foreign power.

    Ok, in that case where is this ‘plausible’ evidence he has spied for a foreign power? Please link. Why have the pro-Security State press outlets not been running this constantly?

    But here is the rub of it. There is zero, nil, nada evidence he is a spy, a claim he rightly and effectively dismisses… But lets just say it suddenly transpired that he was a Russian spy… if all the evidence supported claims he has made are still true… SO WHAT? It changes nothing other than Vladimir Putin has (bizarrely) done the ‘free world’ an enormous favour. The truth about the NSA/GCHQ remains the same regardless.

    But I find the notion a whistle-blower should place themselves at the mercy of a demonstrably corrupt system they blew the whistle on rather perverse. Why? His strategy has been highly effective.

  • Mr Ed

    There is zero, nil, nada evidence

    ‘Ninguna’ for ‘nada’ if you please.

    Mr Snowden has done us all an immense service by sticking his neck out, whether or not he is a Russian spy, a ‘useful idiot’ for Mr Putin or a principled objector to the panopticon State, he has done us all a service. If a mathematician gets the right answer to the question, the working behind the answer is academic.

  • I do think that the motives and the background are important, and eventually I would like to know whether Snowden has been working for Putin prior to the public revelations etc. But this is certainly secondary to the rest of the issues at hand.

  • ‘Ninguna’ for ‘nada’ if you please.

    Which I do not ;-)

    I do think that the motives and the background are important, and eventually I would like to know whether Snowden has been working for Putin prior to the public revelations etc.

    I think as the revelations were supported by evidence, the motivations are ‘interesting’ rather than ‘important’. But it is certain that long after the issue itself fades into history, there will be many a book written about Snowden-the-man rather than just the Snowden Revelations.

  • Mr Ed

    Sorry Perry, your use of ‘nada’ which is ‘nothing’ (or ‘swim!’) in Spanish and Portuguese, rather than ‘no’ or ‘none’ seemed not to fit. However, it is now perhaps a loan word with a nuanced context.

    Anyway, let us all resist the Grammar Nazis.

  • Richard Thomas

    Perry is correct. Snowden himself as a person is largely irrelevant. People who attempt to derail discussions about the revelations he has does and will release into attacks on him personally are idiots. It’s politics taken to the level of soap opera.

  • Richard Thomas

    For he who fights and runs away
    May live to fight another day;
    But he who is in battle slain
    Can never rise and fight again.

  • long-lost cousin

    Let’s say, hypothetically, that Snowden was cashing Putin’s checks and was promised his pick of any seventeen thousand-euro-a-night hookers once he moved to Moscow. (I strongly doubt this, but assume it arguendo.)

    In the immortal words of our presumptive next president, “what difference does it make?”

    Uncle Sam broke the law, in a big way. And without Snowden committing a (IMHO very much lesser) crime, we’d never know about it. Or maybe someone will pop up and claim that Snowden is lying, whoever does that would be well-advised to bring links to the USG’s denials.

    And anybody who thinks that he should have come back to face the music, all I can say that your faith in the fair dealings and apolitical and sensible use of discretion by Eric Holder and his DoJ is touching. Heartwarming, even, just like my niece’s belief in Santa Claus.

  • Laird

    Coincidentally, this morning I was listening to a piece on National Public Radio (yes, I know: consider the source) about whistleblowers at the NSA and other intelligence agencies. Invariably, the only persons charged with anything after these attempts are the whistleblowers themselves. Snowden was undoubtedly well aware of the fate of these poor unfortunates, and took the steps necessary to protect himself. (I encourage everyone to read Glenn Greenwald’s book; it’s both fascinating and infuriating.) Snowden will never get a fair trial in the US, and he will never be physically safe if he leaves Russia.