WORTH REPEATING: Also Sprach Edward Snowden


GLENN GREENWALD: For the last two weeks, Snowden has been unable to speak publicly as he attempts to secure asylum. During that time, all sorts of accusations, innuendo, and other demonization campaigns have been directed at him by political officials and various members of the US media. Today, we published below another video of new excerpts from the interview which Laura Poitras and I conducted with Snowden, this one 7-minutes long. It was filmed in Hong Kong on June 6. The video is taken from the extensive footage Poitras filmed as part of the documentary she has been making on the surveillance state. The new excerpts can be seen here.

DER SPIEGEL: Just before Edward Snowden became a world famous whistleblower, he answered an extensive catalog of questions. These came from, amongst others, Jacob Appelbaum, 30, a developer of encryption and security software. Appelbaum educates international human rights groups and journalists on how to work with the Internet in safe and anonymous way. He became more publicly know in 2010, when he represented WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaking at a hacker conference in New York. Along with Assange and other co-authors he has recently published the interview recording “Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet.”

In the course of investigations into the WikiLeaks disclosures, Appelbaum came to the attention of American authorities, who demanded companies such as Twitter and Google to divulge his accounts. He himself describes his attitude to WikiLeaks as “ambivalent” – and describes below how it came about that he was able to ask Snowden these questions.

In mid-May I was contacted by the documentary-maker Laura Poitras. She told me, that at this time she was in contact with an anonymous NSA source, which had consented to be interviewed by her. She put together questions and asked me to contribute questions. This was, among other reasons, to determine whether she was really dealing with a NSA whistleblower. We sent our questions via encrypted e-mails. I did not know that the interlocutor was Edward Snowden until he revealed himself as such in public in Hong Kong. He did not know who I was. I had expected that he was someone in his sixties. MORE

DER SPIEGEL: The NSA is building a new data center in Utah. What is it for?

Snowden: These are the new mass data storage facilities.

Question: For how long will the information there be stored?

Snowden: Right now it is still so, that the full text of collected material ages very quickly, within a few days, especially given its enormous amount. Unless an analyst marked a target or a particular communication. In that case the communication is saved for all eternity, one always get an authorization for that anyway. The metadata ages less quickly. The NSA at least wants all metadata to be stored forever. Often the metadata is more valuable than the contents of the communication, because in most cases, one can retrieve the content, if there is metadata. And if not, you mark all future communications that fits this metadata and is of interest, so that henceforth it will be recorded completely. The metadata tells you what you actually want from the broader stream.

Question: Do private companies help the NSA?

Snowden: Yes. But it’s hard to prove that. The names of the cooperating telecom companies are the crown jewels of the NSA… Generally you can say that multinationals with headquarters in the USA should not be trusted until they prove otherwise. This is unfortunate, because these companies have the ability to deliver the world’s best and most reliable services – if they wanted to. To facilitate this, civil rights movements should now use these revelations as a driving force. The companies should write enforceable clauses into their terms, guaranteeing their clients that they are not being spied on. And they should include technical guarantees. If you could move even a single company to do such a thing, it would improve the security of global communications. And when this appears to not be feasible, you should consider starting one such company yourself. MORE

DANIEL ELLSBERG: Many people compare Edward Snowden to me unfavorably for leaving the country and seeking asylum, rather than facing trial as I did. I don’t agree. The country I stayed in was a different America, a long time ago. […] There is no chance that experience could be reproduced today, let alone that a trial could be terminated by the revelation of White House actions against a defendant that were clearly criminal in Richard Nixon’s era — and figured in his resignation in the face of impeachment — but are today all regarded as legal (including an attempt to “incapacitate me totally”). I hope Snowden’s revelations will spark a movement to rescue our democracy, but he could not be part of that movement had he stayed here. There is zero chance that he would be allowed out on bail if he returned now and close to no chance that, had he not left the country, he would have been granted bail. Instead, he would be in a prison cell like Bradley Manning, incommunicado. MORE

RELATED: Boliva Joins Venezuela And Nicaragua And Offers Snowden Asylum

RELATED: According to US legislators and journalists, the surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden actively aided America’s enemies. They are just missing one essential element for the meme to take flight: evidence. An op-ed by Representative Mike Pompeo (Republican, Kansas) proclaiming Snowden, who provided disclosed widespread surveillance on phone records and internet communications by the National Security Agency, “not a whistleblower” is indicative of the emerging narrative. Writing in the Wichita Eagle on 30 June Pompeo, a member of the House intelligence committee, wrote that Snowden “has provided intelligence to America’s adversaries“.

Pompeo correctly notes in his op-ed that “facts are important”. Yet when asked for the evidence justifying the claim that Snowden gave intelligence to American adversaries, his spokesman, JP Freire, cited Snowden’s leak of NSA documents. Those documents, however, were provided to the Guardian and the Washington Post, not al-Qaeda or North Korea. It’s true that information published in the press can be read by anyone, including people who mean America harm. But to conflate that with actively handing information to foreign adversaries is to foreclose on the crucial distinction between a whistleblower and a spy, and makes journalists the handmaidens of enemies of the state. MORE

GLENN GREENWALD: I’ve written an article on NSA surveillance for the front page of the Sunday edition of O Globo, the large Brazilian newspaper based in Rio de Janeiro. The article is headlined (translated) “US spied on millions of emails and calls of Brazilians”, and I co-wrote it with Globo reporters Roberto Kaz and Jose Casado. The rough translation of the article into English is here. The main page of Globo’s website lists related NSA stories: here.

As the headline suggests, the crux of the main article details how the NSA has, for years, systematically tapped into the Brazilian telecommunication network and indiscriminately intercepted, collected and stored the email and telephone records of millions of Brazilians. The story follows an article in Der Spiegel last week, written by Laura Poitras and reporters from that paper, detailing the NSA’s mass and indiscriminate collection of the electronic communications of millions of Germans. There are many more populations of non-adversarial countries which have been subjected to the same type of mass surveillance net by the NSA: indeed, the list of those which haven’t been are shorter than those which have. The claim that any other nation is engaging in anything remotely approaching indiscriminate worldwide surveillance of this sort is baseless.

As those two articles detail, all of this bulk, indiscriminate surveillance aimed at populations of friendly foreign nations is part of the NSA’s “FAIRVIEW” program. Under that program, the NSA partners with a large US telecommunications company, the identity of which is currently unknown, and that US company then partners with telecoms in the foreign countries. Those partnerships allow the US company access to those countries’ telecommunications systems, and that access is then exploited to direct traffic to the NSA’s repositories. MORE

RELATED: “Journalism Is Publishing Things That Other People Don’t Want Published, Everything Else Is Public Relations.” — GEORGE ORWELL