NSA holds info over US citizens like loaded gun, but says ‘trust me’ – Snowden

Edward Snowden (Still from YouTube video)
The National Security Agency has a gun aimed at the head of each and every American, Edward Snowden says in a new interview, and they’re being asked to accept the NSA’s vast surveillance operations in the name of counterterrorism.

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The NSA contractor turned whistleblower met comedian John Oliver at a Moscow hotel opposite the KGB’s former HQ in a room with all windows covered.

During the frank interview, which aired Sunday on Oliver’s ‘Last Week tonight’, Snowden tells the comedian-host “The NSA has the greatest surveillance capabilities that we have ever seen in history. Now what they will argue is that they don’t use this for nefarious purposes against American citizens."

‘Trust me'

Snowden himself admits ‘In some ways that’s true. But the real problem is that they’re using these capabilities to make us vulnerable to them and then saying, well, ‘I have gun pointed at your head. I’m not going to pull the trigger. Trust me.'"

“The most visible line in the sand for people,” Oliver pointed out said, is "whether or not any x-rated images sent from cell phones or email accounts can be intercepted by the NSA".

Snowden voiced his opposition to Americans adopting new habits to evade government surveillance — nor should anyone stop sharing their personal, x-rated images. “The bad news is they are still collecting everyone’s information,” Snowden said, “including your dick pics.”

“You shouldn’t change your behavior because a government agency somewhere is doing the wrong thing,” he said. “If we sacrifice our values because we’re afraid, we don’t care about those values very much.”

“Even if you send it to somebody in the United States,” Snowden explained. “Your wholly domestic communication between you and your wife can go to New York to London and back and get caught up in the database.”

John Oliver's horror

The NSA’s PRISM program, first revealed by Snowden in 2013, “is how they pull your junk out of Google with Google’s involvement,” he explained, and Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act—the contentious metadata collection program—allows the agency to “tell who you are sharing your junk pictures with.”

Oliver responded by saying he was “horrified” by the news, but Snowden said that shouldn’t be any reason for Americans to censor themselves.

“But while, according to Oliver, the PATRIOT Act might serve as “basically a blank check” for the government to collect intelligence on seemingly everyone, the comedian argued with Snowden that the ordinary American isn’t interested—or even understands—the complexities surrounding the ongoing surveillance issue.

Oliver showed Snowden a man-on-the-street segment he filmed in New York City’s Times Square, where the comedian struggled to find a single passer-by who could even correctly identify Snowden.

Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept journalist who has worked with Snowden on the NSA trove, wrote Monday that “The befuddled reactions of the Times Square interviewees when asked about Snowden illustrate little about the specific surveillance issue but a great deal about the full-scale political disengagement of a substantial chunk of the American population.”

Oliver introduced his interview with Snowden by acknowledging that provisions contained in the US PATRIOT Act—including some that make up the supposed legal basis for the spy agency’s surveillance operations—are set to expire on June 1 if Congress fails to re-authorize the legislation.

Now in the wake of Snowden’s disclosures and the subsequent international backlash, Congress might be closer than ever to reining in the NSA. According to the former contractor, pulling the plug on any of the agency’s eavesdropping programs would roll back the powers of a state-sanctioned spy machine unmatched anywhere on Earth.

“There's no doubt it is a critical conversation. But is it a conversation that we have the capacity to have?” Oliver asked. “Because it's so complicated that we don't fundamentally understand it.”

“It is a challenging conversation. It's difficult for most people to even conceptualize. The problem is the internet is massively complex and so much of it is invisible,” Snowden said in response.

“The question is, are these programs valuable. Are we going to be safer when we are spying on UNICEF and lawyers who are talking about the price of shrimp and clove cigarettes,” Snowden said.

In Oliver’s view, revelations concerning international charities and attorneys aren’t what Americans are most interested in.