This afternoon, the Free Snowden site, put together by the Courage Foundation to do exactly what the site's name says, relayed questions sent via Twitter to National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden for responses. Then they hosted Snowden's answers.
Some notable points:
- Snowden thinks it's possible for the United States to recover from the damage caused by the surveillance scandal with new laws and oversight. "We can correct the laws, restrain the overreach of agencies, and hold the senior officials responsible for abusive programs to account," he writes.
- America's whistleblower protections are extremely weak in the national security arena. Snowden had no "official channels" to report this wrongdoing. "I still made tremendous efforts to report these programs to co-workers, supervisors, and anyone with the proper clearance who would listen," he writes. "The reactions of those I told about the scale of the constitutional violations ranged from deeply concerned to appalled, but no one was willing to risk their jobs, families, and possibly even freedom … ."
- He thinks it's "interesting" that President Barack Obama gave his limp NSA reform speech prior to the release of the report by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Board declaring that the NSA's mass metadata collection system is illegal and should be stopped. "When even the federal government says the NSA violated the constitution at least 120 million times under a single program, but failed to discover even a single 'plot,' it's time to end 'bulk collection,' which is a euphemism for mass surveillance," he writes. "There is simply no justification for continuing an unconstitutional policy with a 0% success rate."
- He says he never stole anybody's passwords or tricked coworkers to get access he shouldn't have, contrary to reports.
- He says not all spying is bad. He is against the indiscriminate mass surveillance of citizens who are not suspected of any wrongdoing. "This is a global problem, and America needs to take the lead in fixing it," he writes. "If our government decides our Constitution's 4th Amendment prohibition against unreasonable seizures no longer applies simply because that's a more efficient means of snooping, we're setting a precedent that immunizes the government of every two-bit dictator to perform the same kind of indiscriminate, dragnet surveillance of entire populations that the NSA is doing."
- Asked by CNN's Jake Tapper under what conditions would he return to the United States, Snowden responded that he wants to, but the laws under which he's charged forbid him from mounting a fair defense for his actions. Over at Politico, Eric Holder says the Department of Justice would offer Snowden a plea deal to return home, which sounds like a typical tone deaf response from our nation's prosecutors.
- When asked about the recent BuzzFeed piece where anonymous government intelligence officials said they wanted to kill Snowden, he responds he's concerned "that current, serving officials of our government are so comfortable in their authorities that they're willing to tell reporters on the record that they think the due process protections of the 5th Amendment of our Constitution are outdated concepts. These are the same officials telling us to trust that they'll honor the 4th and 1st Amendments. This should bother all of us." I would add that it's also a concern that even a relatively young media outlet like BuzzFeed is already falling into the entrenched Washington media habit of allowing government officials anonymity — not for the purpose of providing valuable information the public deserves to know, but to attack others without having to risk any consequences.
Read the whole livechat here.