Snowden says ‘I told you so’
Former CIA and National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden has claimed vindication after a media report exposed how surveillance tools deployed to fight Covid-19 are now being abused by law enforcement and other authorities – as he predicted over two years ago.
“I talked about this back in early 2020 and was dismissed as paranoid, as is our tradition when someone points to the predictable outcome of a dangerous but popular new trend,” Snowden said in a Twitter post on Friday. The former US intelligence contractor cited this week’s Associated Press article on how Covid-19 had “accelerated and normalized” use of state surveillance and tracking tools against ordinary citizens and activists.
Snowden linked to an April 2020 interview with VICE founder Shane Smith in which he predicted that emergency measures used to deal with the Covid-19 crisis would become permanent and be used to infringe civil liberties. At the time, pandemic fears were at their height, and many governments across the globe were being lauded for using cutting-edge surveillance applications to track infections and quarantine people who had possibly been exposed to the virus.
I talked about this back in early 2020 and was dismissed as paranoid—as is our tradition when someone points to the predictable outcome of a dangerous but popular new trend. Stopping this will be harder, now.You can watch the original interview here:https://t.co/RtRQRVEaUbhttps://t.co/LOCWXxlcBs— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) December 23, 2022
“When any of us looks at where this is heading, we need to think about where we’ve been,” Snowden told Smith. “And sadly, these kinds of emergency powers that are born out of crises have a perfect history of abuse. I mean, down the board, whenever you look at these things, the funniest part about it, in a dark way, is that the emergency never ends and becomes normalized.”
The AP article cited mobile-phone tracking and other technology being used to accuse people of crimes, block citizens from traveling, harass “marginalized communities” and link personal health data to surveillance and law enforcement systems.
Snowden came to fame by exposing the US government's global and domestic surveillance tactics that sprung from an earlier crisis, the September 11 terrorist attacks. He lamented that with pandemic-related technology already being abused, “stopping this will be harder, now.”
In the 2020 interview, Snowden argued that because everyone was so fearful about the present, they neglected to think about how the decisions that were being made would affect the future. “No matter how it’s being used, what is being built is the architecture of oppression.” He added, “As authoritarianism spreads, as emergency laws proliferate, as we sacrifice our rights, we also sacrifice our capability to arrest this slide into a less liberal, less free world.”