NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden: 'I don't want to live in a society that does these sort of things' | Summary and Q&A

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July 9, 2013
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The Guardian
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NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden: 'I don't want to live in a society that does these sort of things'

TL;DR

Edward Snowden, a former NSA infrastructure analyst, discusses his decision to become a whistleblower and reveals how the American surveillance state operates.

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Questions & Answers

Q: Why did Edward Snowden choose to become a whistleblower and openly reveal his identity?

Snowden believes that the public deserves an explanation for the motivations behind such disclosures that affect democracy, as secrecy can give the government an unchecked mandate. By openly revealing his identity, he wants to defend the authenticity of the disclosures and emphasize the public's role in decision-making.

Q: How does the American surveillance state function and whom does it target?

The surveillance state focuses on gathering intelligence anywhere possible by any means, believing it is in the national interest. While it initially concentrated on foreign intelligence, it now targets domestic actions as well. The NSA collects, filters, analyzes, and stores communications of everyone, even if the initial intention is to target someone associated with a foreign government or terrorism. Any authorized analyst can target anyone and access their communications.

Q: What risks does Edward Snowden face as a whistleblower?

Snowden acknowledges the potential risks of retaliation from the CIA or its partners, such as rendering, threats, or even assassination attempts. He understands that opposing powerful intelligence agencies comes with inherent risks, but he believes it is a personal decision about what is important to him and whether living freely but uncomfortably is acceptable.

Q: Why should people care about surveillance even if they have done nothing wrong?

Snowden points out that surveillance captures and records everyone's actions, and the storage capacity of these systems is constantly increasing. Under the suspicion from anyone, including a wrong call, these systems can scrutinize every decision, every conversation, and every relationship. This power can be misused to cast innocent individuals as wrongdoers, eroding privacy and potentially harming lives.

Q: Why did Edward Snowden choose to come to Hong Kong?

Snowden states that he chose Hong Kong for its tradition of free speech and its support for protests and demonstrations. Contrary to mainland China, Hong Kong has fewer restrictions on free speech, and its people have a history of making their views known. He emphasizes that his motives were not about aiding an enemy but about finding a location where he could freely explain his actions and ensure transparency.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Snowden explains the decision-making process that led him to become a whistleblower, highlighting the accumulation of awareness of wrongdoing over time and the need for public involvement in determining the morality of government programs.

  • He reveals that the American surveillance state collects and analyzes the communications of everyone, focusing on foreign intelligence initially but increasingly targeting domestic actions as well.

  • Snowden discusses the risks he faces as a whistleblower, the public's right to know, and the importance of individual privacy and the potential consequences of government surveillance.

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