‘People who didn’t know extent of this kind of spying now woke up’

‘People who didn’t know extent of this kind of spying now woke up’
Millions of people believe Edward Snowden did the right thing in exposing the US government’s mass data collection, and it will embolden them to stand up for freedoms that are slowly slipping out of their clutches.

Josh Levy, internet campaign director at Free Press, spoke to RT about the actions that could result from any subsequent public pressure.

RT:The US Government has opened up a criminal investigation – how far will they go do you think? Is Snowden going to end up like WikiLeaks or Bradley Manning?

Josh Levy:
I can’t really speculate on what his fate is – I think that lies instead with the US government. I think that there’s a lot of support for Snowden and there’s a lot of public support in the way that there never really was for Bradley Manning, and I think that’s in part because people are seeing more moral authority in the case of Snowden – they’re seeing that he really did do the right thing as far as he’s concerned and many millions of others are concerned, and he didn’t put any lives in danger. So people are being very careful to differentiate him, and I think for that reason, and because of all that public support I think it’s going to be harder for the US government to press forward with the case in silence.

RT:The extent of the program has drawn anger from European officials - will it hurt security ops on both sides of the Atlantic?

JL: It’s hard for me to comment on that too. My concern is not actually whether it will hurt cooperation between large governments talking back and forth. But what it means for the broader movement to protect their freedoms and their online rights –and I actually think that Snowden’s work in releasing all of this information has been a boon to people who have been working for years to try to get the word out about government surveillance programs and the harms that they present to regular everyday people who are trying to use the internet for communications and to actually engage in democracy and political action.

Supporters gather at a small rally in support of National Security Administration (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden in Manhattan's Union Square on June 10, 2013 in New York City (Mario Tama / Getty Images / AFP)

RT:Your experience dealing with internet freedom issues -will his revelations embolden other countries to act in a similar way?

JL: It’s possible - I suppose we’ll have to wait and see. I think, again, it may embolden governments to act in certain ways but it will embolden regular internet users to stand up for their rights and to actually be more protective of things they realize are slipping away from them every day.

RT:Now Edward Snowden says that he exposed the program in the hope that by informing the public he would close it down. But will it be successful? How likely is this?

JL: Well, I think it’s more likely today than it was last week – that’s for sure. A) Because we know the program exists and B) because of all of the momentum that this has given to movements that have been around for a long time – I think a lot of people who didn’t know the extent of this kind of spying have now woken up to it and are outraged – they’re shocked that their own governments are engaging in these practices that reminds a lot of us of the Cold War and things that were going on in places like East Germany during that time, and I don’t think any of us want to see that happen now, so I think that yes. It’s more likely that these will get shut down, or at least certain laws that allow these widespread surveillance programs to exist will be reformed to protect people’s privacy.

RT:But the president and his chief of intelligence defend the surveillance, saying that it helps protect the country. Does it enhance security?

JL: I’m not a security analyst so I can’t really answer that question – all I can say is that it makes a lot of sense that the president and others in his administration would defend the program – it’s a program that they’ve been overseeing that inherited from the Bush administration – they obviously believe in it because they’ve been executing it all these years – it doesn’t mean it’s right, and it doesn’t mean that it can’t end, and it doesn’t mean the president is immune from public pressure. So I think that we’re going to see a lot of public pressure starting up in the days to come – tomorrow I think you’re going to see a lot of pressure coming from the grass roots specifically, and he’s going to be forced to respond to it somewhere.