“The only way the NSA discovers abuses [by people with access to the mass surveillance system data] is from self reporting.” — Edward Snowden
i.e., self-reporting by the abusers. “Whoops, boss, I couldn’t control myself and had to look up my ex.”
You think — just maybe — the NSA’s data is available to all kinds of people? With no oversight? Just because they “know someone”?
The quote in question is from a half-hour excerpt of Snowden’s first TV interview, for a German news station. (The whole interview lasted 6 hours. The rights to the other 5.5 hours are held by a Hamburg-based production company — will Wikileaks or someone pull together a crowdfunder to get the whole thing released?)
Overall, Snowden does an impressive job of cutting through the bullshit. The NSA metadata program? (“Section 215”) Yeah, the only “attack” it ever stopped was an $85,000 wire transfer from a California taxi driver. No doubt a wanted terrorist… the kind that specialized in terrorizing people on the hightways with his driving.
Also scary: XKeyscore lets you fingerprint users’ internet browsing habits, so you can track them wherever they go online and no matter what computer they use.
This one right here is huge.
All of a sudden it doesn’t matter what connection you use, Tor, whatever. They can still spot you if you’re not careful.
Benefits of speaking German: reading the transcript of the German translation (the version which was broadcast in Germany) I noticed one thing that was left out.
Talking about the plans in Germany and other countries to try and route domestic data within their borders, Snowden replied it wouldn’t help much against the NSA. Not translated into German was him saying it would still “raise the level of sophistication and complexity” involved in taking the information.
Also, in certain respects some of what he said can be seen as an answer to Julian Assange’s call to “infiltrate the CIA!”
Specifically, it’s quite clear that Snowden was not exactly a closet Communist who joined hoping to smash the system.
Instead, Snowden was the sort of person who would get his country’s flag tattooed somewhere embarassing — who believed in the Iraq war to the point he went for the Special Forces hoping to train Iraqi civilians in guerilla fighting. And when that didn’t work, joined the CIA because he believed they offered the best way to use his mind for his country.
The exchange on this is fascinating, so here’s my transcript (from the English language original):
Interviewer: “If we look back, special forces, CIA, NSA, it’s not actually the description of a human rights activist, or somebody who becomes a whistleblower afterward. What happened to you?”
Snowden: “I think it tells a story, and that’s no matter how deeply an individual is embeddeed in the government, no matter how faithful to the government they are, no matter how stronlgy they believe in the causes of their government, as I did during the Iraq War, people can learn. People can discover the line between appropriate government behavior and actual wrongdoing. And I think it became clear to me that line had been crossed.”
There are significant parallels between Snowden and Vasili Mitrokhin —
the latter being the KGB archivist who brought 25,000 pages of files from the archives of the foreign intelligence arm of the KGB over to England. Though Mitrokhin went to an intelligence service (MI6, the CIA didn’t want him) he, too, insisted that his “leaks” be published.
(MI6 wasn’t exactly interested in doing this, and the published version was heavily censored, but publication was the deal he’d insisted on making as a condition of giving them a massive haul of tremendously valuable information.)
Oh, and to all the officials calling for Snowden’s murder, hanging, etc? He had an excellent answer:
“If I’m a traitor, who did I betray — I gave all my information to the American public, to American journalists, who are reporting on American issues.
“If they see that as treason, I think people really need to consider, who do they think they’re working for. The public is supposed to be their boss, not their enemy.”
(NOTE ALL VIDEOS NEED A GERMAN IP ADDRESS TO WATCH AT THE MOMENT… which isn’t all that much of a barrier, frankly.)
Original video (Flash required):
Youtube copy (use a downloader to get around Flash restrictions): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4x38jkFlPeg