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Snowden at SXSW: Don't Believe Their Word Games; The NSA Collects Data on Us All

Yes, they're even spying on the president.

Scahill interviews Snowden at SXSW 2017.Stephanie Slade"When people in government assert that the NSA would never collect communications on an American—any American—they are lying," Edward Snowden said during a taping of the Intercepted podcast with Jeremy Scahill at South by Southwest (SXSW) this morning.

The statement came in response to a question from Scahill about whether the intelligence community "would in fact collect data or communications on lawmakers or even the president." The exiled National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower proceeded to criticize the powers that be for playing "word games" to get out of admitting it's already snooping on all of us, including elected office holders.

"In the plain use of language, what collect means to you and me—when something travels across the phone line, when something travels across the internet line, they pick it up, they save it, and they drop it in their database—that happens to everyone right now," he said. "Does not matter whether you're the president. Doesn't matter whether you're a congressman. Doesn't matter whether you're a lawyer, an accountant. Doesn't matter if it's you sitting in the room right now. These things happen by default. That's how, of course, the system of surveillance that we have works."

Officials deny as much, according to Snowden, by quietly redefining a critical word. "What's happening is these intelligence agencies, these lawyers up at [the Department of Justice] and up with the president, are saying that, to them, collect doesn't mean that we copied your communications, that we put it in the bucket, and that we saved it in case we want to look at it," he explained. "To them, collect means that they take it out of the bucket and actually look at it and read it."

Snowden added that officials also engage in an illegal practice called reverse targeting while pretending otherwise. "If you are an American citizen and they say, 'I want to look at your communications' and 'I want to listen to this person's phone calls and everyone they contacted,' this in theory is supposed to require a warrant," he said. But they get around that, because "if you're in that bucket and you don't have a U.S. passport, you're not a U.S. citizen, no social security card, you don't have a green card so you're not legally privileged as a U.S. person," you're not protected.

"So if they look at the other side of [the American's] communication, the communication that went overseas or involved a non-U.S. person in any way"—even if it was just the target of an attempted foreign cyberattack, he said—"that's entirely legal so long as I'm not targeting him officially. I'm interested in this 'known system that's affiliated with Chinese espionage' or whatever. It just happens to be Obama's Blackberry."

"That happens all day long," Snowden continued. "People at NSA are doing that right now. It's legally prohibited, but when you hit certain stop points in your investigation, you're actually coached to do this kind of thing."

Photo Credit: ||| Stephanie Slade

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Give him a pardon, Mr. President. He's the only one coming close to backing you up.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Yes, they're even spying on the president.

    I came here to say that, but my refresh button is only semi-automatic.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Thank God for common sense refresh button control...

  • american socialist||

    Lol yea my thought as well it at least validates half his claims.

    Also the nyt on 1 19 specifically mentioned wiretapping communications and guardian on 1 10 talked about fisa warrant denied in june and approved october. What were these reportd based on? I know anonymous sources but were they accurate and how did guardian and nyt validate printing

  • Agile Cyborg||

    The long reality weaved by our government winds its lacy sticky trappings through stupor-inducing flecks of media and cinema, tongue-tunes plied by finger-wagging legislators with eyebrows jittering over features strangely dusty, and the unfurling numbness of public education catatonic with apathy and dullness.

    'Nothing' is exactly what should be believed from those who ply the ghostly trades. Cheers, Snowden.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Photography too. You're a girl of many talents.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Looks like I'm back to carrier pidgeons and the vigenère cipher.

  • Agile Cyborg||

    Ah, the alchemist in pied-de-poule.

  • Mongo||

    Latest Snowden tweet:

    I wonder if Texas ribs match-up to the Amur leopard ribs at House of Meat in Blagoveshchensk ? Pro tip: tell them to go easy on the butanol sauce lol

  • DanO.||

    Edward Snowden
    ✔ @realEdwardSnowden
    Do I look fat in this hat? Fear alcoholism in Russian hell. Vodka subpar, might be poison. Sad.
    6:20 PM - 14 Mar 2017

  • JCDavis||

    This collection fraud was set up in late 2001 by Cheney and Hayden, who then proceeded to get blackmail dirt on everyone with power. So it isn't Russia that has blackmail dirt on Trump. It's the NSA and whoever their real customers are these days--most likely still Cheney and Hayden, who are not the types to give up power once they've gotten it.

  • Principal Spittle||

    When nothing can be believed the information age is over.

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