Don’t hope for Obama or fear of Trump - Snowden chimes in on US elections and surveillance
“We can not hope for an Obama and we can not fear a Donald Trump rather we should build it ourselves,” Snowden said about creating positive social change.
Snowden, an NSA contractor fled the US in 2013 after he leaked classified documents from the National Security Agency (NSA), revealing details about its global surveillance programmes. He has been granted temporary residency in Russia.
The NSA whistleblower was speaking from Moscow, Thursday, in a livestream hosted by private search engine StartPage in Amsterdam.
Snowden declined to get into a discussion regarding Trump’s election victory specifically and the impact it may have on the NSA, insisting he tries not to “look at this as a question of single election or a single government ”.
He reminded the audience that President Obama did not fulfil promises he made in relation to ending mass surveillance or closing Guantanamo Bay in order to highlight the broader point that “we should be cautious of putting to much hope or fear in one person”.
“President Obama campaigned on a platform of ending mass surveillance, ending torture and we all put a lot of hope in him because of this. We thought because the right person got into office everything would change.”
He went on to discuss the fabric of communications and how it is being used to disempower the very communities it was intended to empower.
“We have to think for ourselves what if we start weaving this fabric in a different way...what if every communication is protected by default.. instead we make this fabric work for the whole world.
“I think this election reminds us that that capability is within our reach today”
The whistleblower admitted he followed the election closely but insisted it was bigger than him, “while I obviously care what happens to me this is not about me, this is about us,” he said.
Snowden insisted that it is the people that must force the change, “We can not hope for an Obama and we can not fear a Donald Trump rather we should build it ourselves”.
Returning to the subject of Trump later in the discussion Snowden said “It’s not that people think Trump is the greatest person in the US, its just they didn’t prefer the other option.”
He said it shouldn’t be a mere question of two candidates. “A vote will never be enough”, he said urging people to think more about what happens after the election.
When asked by an audience member what more can people do he suggested supporting organizations that fight to protect civil rights.
Snowden insisted the personal uncertainties created by the new US commander in chief and his apparent closer relationship with Russian president Vladimir Putin didn’t worry him.
“They said Russia is not a country that extradites human rights offenders,” he said but admitted it was still a possibility however not one he loses sleep over.
“If I was worried about safety I would still be in Hawaii. I never expected to make it out of Hawaii. I’m comfortable with the choice I made”.
He continued that he was proud of his actions and no matter what happens “if there's a drone strike that's something that won't change”.
“As long as we live in accordance with our values we won't have to worry about what happens tomorrow because today for me it's enough,” he continued.
The NSA whistleblower said while he hopes to someday return to the US what he won't do is stand up and serve as a deterrent to scare people.
The interview focused largely on privacy concerns and the ongoing issue of mass surveillance.
Snowden emphasized the effectiveness of targeted surveillance over mass surveillance pointing to the Boston Marathon as an example where terrorism was not stopped despite it happening during the height of mass surveillance and the US receiving a tip off from Foreign Intelligence agencies.
Mass surveillance fails “because when you collect everything you understand nothing - you get drowned in so much information you can’t find what’s relevant”.
He claimed the traditional method of following tip offs and the obtaining a warrant to carry out surveillance is the most effective. “Targeted surveillance does not destroy the rights of everyone else in society.”
The conversation ended on a positive note with Snowden reminding people he gets great enjoyment out of what he does and felt optimistic about the future despite the present uncertain times.
“Despite the challenges and statements by president of elect this is a nation that will strive to get better..this is a dark moment in our history but it’s not the end.”
A campaign is underway to secure Snowden a presidential pardon before Obama leaves office in January 2017.