Despite his way of confining himself to previously released material, Snowden’s (written) testimony to the European Parliament still provides some insights.
Choice quotes below. He is as quotable as ever, and his observation that intelligence oversight should always be done by opposition parties is an interesting one.
“… an EU member state like Denmark may give the NSA access to a tapping center on the (unenforceable) condition that NSA doesn’t search it for Danes, and Germany may give the NSA access to another on the condition that it doesn’t search for Germans. Yet the two tapping sites may be two points on the same cable, so the NSA simply captures the communications of the German citizens as they transit Denmark, and the Danish citizens as they transit Germany, all the while considering it entirely in accordance with their agreements. Ultimately, each EU national government’s spy services are independently hawking domestic accesses to the NSA, GCHQ, FRA, and the like without having any awareness of how their individual contribution is enabling the greater patchwork of mass surveillance against ordinary citizens as a whole.
“It should raise serious concerns for this committee, and for society, that the GCHQ’s lawyers consider themselves fortunate to avoid the
kind of burdensome oversight regime that rejects 11 out of 34,000 requests. If that’s what heavy oversight looks like, what, pray tell, does the GCHQ’s “light oversight” look like?
“The oversight of intelligence agencies should always be performed by opposition parties, as under the democratic model, they always have the most to lose under a surveillance state.
“Did the Russian secret service approach you?
– Of course. Even the secret service of Andorra would have approached me, if they had had the chance: that’s their job.
But I didn’t take any documents with me from Hong Kong, and while I’m sure they were disappointed, it doesn’t take long for an intelligence service to realize when they’re out of luck. I was also accompanied at all times by an utterly fearless journalist with one of the biggest megaphones in the world, which is the equivalent of Kryptonite for spies. As a consequence, we spent the next 40 days trapped in an airport instead of sleeping on piles of money while waiting for the next parade. But we walked out with heads held high.”