June 17, 2013

Three former NSA whistle-blowers discuss the Edward Snowden case with USA TODAY reporters Susan Page and Peter Eisler.

Edward Snowden is apparently feeling safe enough in Hong Kong to field questions at The Guardian in a live Q&A. In his first answer, Snowden defended his decision to leak information about NSA operations against China and other countries by saying he didn’t reveal any operations against “legitimate military targets,” only civilian infrastructure like universities and businesses. Snowden said that hacking countries we’re not at war with could crash critical systems, affecting “millions of innocent people.” As for why he chose Hong Kong, he said he could have been interdicted on his way to Iceland and that it would take longer for the U.S. to pressure Hong Kong into extraditing him. Snowden also said that more information on exactly what sort of access the NSA has to tech company servers—he said it was “direct,” but companies and the NSA say it’s more targeted.

Of former Vice President Dick Cheney calling him a "traitor" on national television, Snowden commented that "Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American..."

From the Q&A, Snowden was asked:

Kimberly Dozier @KimberlyDozier

US officials say terrorists already altering TTPs because of your leaks, & calling you traitor. Respond? http://www.guardiannews.com #AskSnowden
10:34 AM - 17 Jun 2013

His response:

US officials say this every time there's a public discussion that could limit their authority. US officials also provide misleading or directly false assertions about the value of these programs, as they did just recently with the Zazi case, which court documents clearly show was not unveiled by PRISM.

Journalists should ask a specific question: since these programs began operation shortly after September 11th, how many terrorist attacks were prevented SOLELY by information derived from this suspicionless surveillance that could not be gained via any other source? Then ask how many individual communications were ingested to acheive that, and ask yourself if it was worth it. Bathtub falls and police officers kill more Americans than terrorism, yet we've been asked to sacrifice our most sacred rights for fear of falling victim to it.

Further, it's important to bear in mind I'm being called a traitor by men like former Vice President Dick Cheney. This is a man who gave us the warrantless wiretapping scheme as a kind of atrocity warm-up on the way to deceitfully engineering a conflict that has killed over 4,400 and maimed nearly 32,000 Americans, as well as leaving over 100,000 Iraqis dead. Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American, and the more panicked talk we hear from people like him, Feinstein, and King, the better off we all are. If they had taught a class on how to be the kind of citizen Dick Cheney worries about, I would have finished high school.

Three former NSA officials who tried to bring the immense data-collecting activities of their agency to light say Edward Snowden did the right thing by making the operation public. In a round-table interview with USA Today (See video above), Thomas Drake, William Binney, and J. Kirk Wiebe praised Snowden for exposing information in the public's interest. The trio pushed back on the idea that his actions caused grave harm to the country, saying people including terrorists know the government is monitoring their telecommunications.

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