Edward Snowden’s live Q & A Eight Things We Learned

June 19, 2013

On Monday the whistleblower Edward Snowden gave an exclusive live Q&A to the Guardian to answer questions about the biggest intelligence leak in NSA history and revelations about government surveillance. Here are some key things we learned: 1. There is very little information on private individuals the intelligence services cannot get access to The reality is this: if an NSA, FBI, CIA, DIA [Defence Intelligence Agency], etc analyst has access to query raw SIGINT [signals intelligence] databases, they can enter and get results for anything they want.

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Phone number, email, user id, cell phone handset id (IMEI), and so on – it’s all the same. The restrictions against this are policy based, not technically based, and can change at any time. Additionally, audits are cursory, incomplete, and easily fooled by fake justifications. For at least GCHQ, the number of audited queries is only 5% of those performed … If I target for example an email address, for example under FAA 702, and that email address sent something to you, Joe America, the analyst gets it. All of it. IPs, raw data, content, headers, attachments, everything. And it gets saved for a very long time – and can be extended further with waivers rather than warrants. 2. Snowden waited to release the documents, hoping Obama would bring change Obama’s campaign promises and election gave me faith that he would lead us toward fixing the problems he outlined in his quest for votes.

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Many Americans felt similarly. Unfortunately, shortly after assuming power, he closed the door on investigating systemic violations of law, deepened and expanded several abusive programs, and refused to spend the political capital to end the kind of human rights violations like we see in Guantánamo, where men still sit without charge. 3. He fears that the US will stop at nothing to silence him All I can say right now is the US government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me. Truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped. 4. Snowden is confident he has the public on his side If the Obama administration responds with an even harsher hand against me, they can be assured that they’ll soon find themselves facing an equally harsh public response. 5. But he is less impressed with the media response Initially I was very encouraged. Unfortunately, the mainstream media now seems far more interested in what I said when I was 17 or what my girlfriend looks like rather than, say, the largest program of suspicionless surveillance in human history.

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6. Encryption offers protection Encryption works. Properly implemented strong crypto systems are one of the few things that you can rely on. Unfortunately, endpoint security is so terrifically weak that NSA can frequently find ways around it. 7. He isn’t too upset about being called a traitor by Dick Cheney Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American, and the more panicked talk we hear from people like him, Feinstein, and King, the better off we all are. If they had taught a class on how to be the kind of citizen Dick Cheney worries about, I would have finished high school. 8. And if Snowden had been planning to defect to China he’d be petting a phoenix right now The US media has a knee-jerk ‘RED CHINA!’ reaction to anything involving HK or the PRC, and is intended to distract from the issue of US government misconduct. Ask yourself if I were a Chinese spy, why wouldn’t I have flown directly into Beijing? I could be living in a palace petting a phoenix by now.

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