Snowden: Democracy Under Surveillance

– Hello everyone, and welcome to Democracy
Under Surveillance, A Conversation With Edward Snowden. My name's Tucker Higgins, I'm
the Chair of Media Council, and we are very excited to have
you all here for our event. Four years ago, it was
in this room that I asked Chancellor Robert Gates
whether he thought there must always be a trade off between liberty and security in a democracy. He told me without blinking that Edward Snowden was a traitor. We are privileged to be part of a community that values debate, and that is open to new
information and competing ideas. We know that in the room today, we have people who support Mr. Snowden, and those who are highly critical, as well as those who are unsure. We hope today's conversation
between two renowned figures will be valuable for everyone. Before we get started, I wanted to thank some of
the people that made sure that this event could happen. First, we owe a great debt to the Freedom of the Press Foundation, both for their tireless
work defending press freedom everyday and also for connecting
us to our main speaker. I also wanna thank the
Institute for Humane Studies and the John Templeton Foundation
for providing the support to help make this possible, and lastly, I wanna thank
the Film and Media Studies Department, and WCWM, in particular, Lizzie Fulham, who's over there, for their help in making sure
that this event's a success. We have two extraordinary men
here to speak with you today. Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson
is a distinguished Professor of Government
here at the college, he's a retired U.S. Army Colonel, and former chief of
staff to former secretary of state Colin Powell. Before serving at the State Department, Wilkerson served 31 years in the army. During that time, he was
a member of the faculty of the U.S. Naval War College, special assistant to
General Powell when he was chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, and director and deputy director
of the U.S. Marine Corps at Quantico, Virginia. Mr. Edward Snowden hardly
needs an introduction. His disclosures have fueled
international debates on mass surveillance, government secrecy, and the balance between
information security and national, information
privacy and national security. A Pew survey in 2015 showed
that Snowden's disclosures dramatically changed how
Americans use the internet, and since his leaks, a third of Americans say
they have changed the way they search for information. Both Colonel Wilkerson and
Mr. Snowden are exemplars of the character traits we most value here at William & Mary. They represent boldness, tempered by exceptional moral vision, and backed by immense amounts
of knowledge in their fields. They are also both recipients
of the Sam Adams Award, which is an award given
annually to recognize an intelligent professional who has taken a stand for integrity ethics. The event will begin with some remarks from Colonel Wilkerson. After that, we have allocated some time for student organizations to
ask Mr. Snowden questions, and finally, we'll be
opening up the conversation to those in the audience. This conversation is being
livestreamed on Facebook and YouTube by Learn Liberty, an online education project of the Institute for Humane Studies. During the Q and A we will take questions from our online viewers. After the conversation, you'll have the opportunity
to tell us what you thought of the event, and you'll
have a chance to learn more about upcoming events similar
to this in the future. Thank you very much. Now, I would like to welcome
both of our speakers. Thanks. – Feel a little perplexed, huh? – A little, how is everyone tonight? – [Audience] Good. – I think they're all good, and I think they're all eager
to hear from you, and so am I. I wanna start, if I may,
with a little history, and this may put you on the spot, it may be a little provocative,
but that's what I wanna be. I wanna take you back a
couple hundred plus years to Philadelphia, Boston, New York, I wanna take you back to
a country called America, there was two and a half million souls, a half million of them black slaves. There were probably some Frenchmen, some Spaniards, some Dutch around, but most were citizens
of the British Empire. The legitimate government of this country was George III of England
and his parliament in London. Most of the people in
this country at that time were loyal citizens to George III. A small group of people weren't,
or were increasingly not. They met in Philadelphia
and Boston and elsewhere, and they finally in 1776 drafted a Declaration of Independence
from that legitimate government, and the words
that in that Declaration are eloquented into every American's mind, intuitively if not intellectually, to the purposes of that
Declaration they said they swore their lives, their
fortunes, and their sacred honor. Every single one of them knew, from Benjamin Franklin,
the wisest amongst them, to Thomas Jefferson, whose
eloquent pen had crafted that document, that their
fate might be hanging, very much might be
hanging from the yardarm of a British man 'o war in
Boston Harbor or New York Harbor. Thomas Jefferson even got
accused of being a coward for running the government so far west when the British were threatening him. These men knew that they might die. They were called traitors, they were called treasonous by George III, the legitimate head of the government, do you feel any affinity
with those men and few women, like Abigail Adams? – I think it's important
to remember, and if I may, I'd like to actually take
this right into my remarks, because this is the perfect introduction. What so many people forget is that we are a nation born
of an act of criminality, an act of treason. Now, a lot of people have heard charges such as that
I, myself am a traitor, that I have committed treason. In fact, I have committed no treason, I have not been charged
with committing treason, because treason is one of the few laws which is actually
specifically written into our Constitution, it has a
very particular definition, which is not at all in line
with my political activities. But, when we talk about treason, when we talk about traitors, when we talk about what it means to have a citizen say something that is so offensive, whether it is the revelation of a secret, or a declaration of independence, that they are cast out beyond the law, they are persecuted, killed if captured, exiled, or other things. We need to think about why. Now, in my case, for
those who are not familiar with my personal background, I do feel an obligation to talk briefly about why it is that we're here tonight, why we're having this conversation. We're going to be talking about
surveillance in our lives. This means we're going to
be talking about power. Why? Because people are only interested in data, communications, surveillance watching people, for the utility that it provides, they don't do it for its own sake. Outside academia, there
are not very many people who are looking at information
for information's sake. Whether we're talking
about Facebook determining what ads you see or something
rather more concrete, information today is a convenient means, it's a mechanism for
attaining a certain power. That power today is control. Typically, in a democracy, our post-1776 democracy, control over the general
outline of society is intended to be exercised by the people with their will imposed
upon powerful institutions, be they police, with their powers of detention,
arrest, imprisonment, or even killing, or the military and spy agencies or back into this powerful private
entities, even corporations. But unfortunately in that paradigm today, we have happened upon a problem. Surveillance technologies have outpaced democratic controls. A generation ago, surveillance
was extremely expensive, there was a natural
limitation imposed upon it. That is, the governments
had to spend huge, extraordinary sums to track
lone isolated individuals. To know a particular person's location might involve many teams of officers, both in buildings and out on
the streets, working in shifts. But today that dynamic is reversed. One guy sitting in front
of a monitor can track with precision an unimaginably
large number of people. For the first time in human history, it's both technologically
and financially feasible for governments to track and
store nearly complete records of our private lives. Now, this is not science fiction. This is happening now. When we look at the
construction of facilities such as this, the NSA's
data center in Bluffdale. This was called by them the MDR, the Massive Data Repository. They called it that for a reason, this was not the targeted data repository, this was not something that was designed just to watch this person or that person, it's because they were ingesting
everything, everywhere, and saving it in case it
might be of interest later, in case something came up. Someone who previously, there
was no justification to watch, someone who had committed no crimes, someone who was an ordinary person would have their life captured,
crystallized, compressed, and stored perfectly, timelessly,
for five years or more, just in case they wanted to look at them. Now, the NSA, to their
credit, interestingly, they thought this branding
was a little bit problematic, and this was before I came forward. They thought, hm, massive data repository, massive data repository, that doesn't really sound very good. Why don't we call it the
Mission Data Repository, the Mission Data Center, and they did, they changed the name,
that's what it is today. But this is representative
of a much larger progression that should be alarming us, because many people think
that I have some grievance against the National Security Agency, particularly others who know
even less about my history think I may be anti-American,
or against our government, I wanna end all surveillance, I don't. I signed up for the US
military, for the army, in 2004, when everyone else was
protesting against it. I volunteered to work overseas
undercover for the CIA, and I worked for the NSA overseas, and I came back and worked
as a Dell contractor for the CIA and then I went to Hawaii, again as an NSA contractor. I was drinking the Kool-Aid
for a very long time, right, and this is not to say these
people are doing bad things, there is no evil grand conspiracy amongst average NSA employees to
burn down your rights, to destroy the fabric of our society, that's not what they're there for, but it's important to remember that good people can
very easily do bad things for what they believe are good reasons, and this is what's happening today. Even in developed democracies, places that should know better, in the past few months, the United Kingdom passed the
most extreme surveillance bill in the history of western democracy, called the Investigatory Powers Bill. It takes everything the NSA was
doing, institutionalizes it, and expands it to a level
of intrusive detail that, truly, is beyond what we have
seen the worst police states in history have within their
authorities to go after. This is a law so
authoritarian and so abusive that experts say it goes
farther than laws like China and Russia, which I think we can all agree are no friends to civil liberties. Now, these problems don't only exist far away in other countries, and this is the central issue that we face in our modern times. In, the lesson of these
last few years, I would say, in democracy in the United
States, in our government, is that our government,
like all governments, does not ask for
permission before it acts. It deployed these capabilities, which the federal courts in
the United States have said not only were unlawful
for the entire history of their operation, more than a decade, not only that they had violated the rights of every man, woman, and
child in the United States, but that they were
likely unconstitutional, this is a direct quote,
"and Orwellian in scope," but they deployed these
capabilities in secret, even when they knew in advance
these programs were unlawful, or unconstitutional, at least likely so, perhaps even because they knew this, and this effort succeeded for one particular reason. It was enabled because of failures in our intended mechanisms or
congressional oversight. Courts that were unwilling
to permit legal challenges, this would be in February of 2013, four months before I came forward, the Supreme Court had a case
before it about precisely the mass surveillance that months later I would have revealed. Had the court ruled otherwise, my actions would not have been necessary, no one would have ever heard my name. But the Supreme Court said
that although this case raises serious
constitutional implications, although this could be a
violation of American's rights, the government said it was classified. The White House, the
administration, the executive, said the plaintiffs, this would be Amnesty
International represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, could not prove that
they were being spied on, and if you can't prove
that it's happening, the courts said we have no
role in the controversy. No matter how likely it is, no matter how problematic
it would be if it were true, we have to blind ourselves to likelihood, and instead confine ourselves to fact, and the government abused that. Now, perhaps this was okay, because we have a tripartite
system of checks and balances in the United States, of
course we have the legislature, we have the judiciary,
we have the executive, what of the legislature? We had a congress that knowingly permitted national security officials
to brazenly lie to the public under oath, without consequence, or even correcting the record,
this is a felony, mind you. The most senior intelligence
official in the United States of America, General James Clapper, he's the Director of
National Intelligence, was asked by Senator Ron Wyden, one of the good guys on
surveillance oversight, if exactly this kind of theorized mass surveillance was occurring, if the NSA was in any
way collecting records about millions of Americans, and it looked like this,
testimony under oath. – Does the NSA collect
any type of data at all on millions or hundreds
of millions of Americans? – No, sir. – [Wyden] It does not. – Not wittingly. There are cases where
they could inadvertently perhaps collect, but not wittingly. – Unfortunately, a few months later, after journalists finally
had the truth of the matter in their hands, they found
that that was not true. But this raises a more serious question of does government lie? – Okay, technical geniuses. (audience murmuring) I know what everyone's thinking. (computer chiming) (audience laughing) – Forgive me, I suppose it wouldn't be fun if we didn't have technical difficulties. If I could continue there,
and I realize this is long, but we'll try to simplify
this and get through it. It raises the central
question right, of, okay, if we can't trust the
statements of congress that are made under oath, and we can't trust the courts to get to the truth of the matter, of the most extreme applications of national governmental force, who's really in charge of government? Are we, as we were intended
to be, partner to government, as citizens, or are we
instead becoming once again something closer to subject to it? Are we losing our seat at
the table of government, and what do we do when the ordinary system of oversight breaks down? What happens when even the
most well designed systems of checks and balances
fail comprehensively? I argue, this is where we're forced
to rely upon democracy safeguard of last resort. This is the fourth
estate, meaning our press, protected by the First Amendment, in alliance with whistleblowers, which are better known
traditionally just as sources, journalistic sources. Unfortunately, we are
seeing that we really need journalists to operate
free from interference even in what are traditionally considered liberal and open societies,
such as Canada and Australia, are coming under threat. We've seen within classified
documents published by the GCHQ, which is the
British version of the NSA and our closest sort of
signals intelligence partner, that investigative journalists are considered a threat
more serious than hackers, but one step less serious than terrorists. This should inevitably lead
us to consider what kind of world we will be facing, should governments and
other powerful institutions such as corporations actually
succeed in countering the threat of journalism
that they are perceiving. What would it mean? If we only knew what governments wanted us to know, we wouldn't know very much at all. Speaking of that, can you
think of a case recently in which the government
knowingly violated the law, whether domestic or international, and for fear of consequence,
embarrassment, politics, or any other reasons sought to conceal that fact from the public? Think about what we wouldn't know without having the lever
of adversarial journalism. We don't have to be
talking specifically about national security, either, what about official footage, dash or body cameras
from police shootings? Or when we do go back, what about drone strikes
and where they go wrong? Things will get darker from there. We ran, in this country, an officially sanctioned
program of torture. That's the finding of
our own senate, right, not a conspiracy theory,
not some fringe news piece, but the senate didn't
make that program public out of the goodness of their hearts, they were not searching
for accountability, that was a story that was
first broken by journalists, and in fact the only
American ever to go to jail for the CIA tortures
program is the CIA worker who revealed it, confirmed it, on national news, John Kiriakou. But let's look at it from the other side. Many argue that
extraordinary powers, right, such as these, are
necessary for protecting us, or keeping us safe, they use
reassuring political language. Perhaps this is true, but we should always be aware that we may not get to choose what it is that we're
actually being protected from. Now, I would like to ask
you about a particular story that's fairly well known here. This is written by a
professor at Georgetown, Alvaro Bedoya, and he
wrote about a famous case. Now, the FBI was investigating someone, a prominent religious
leader sort of cleric inside the United States, and the FBI said this guy was in contact with foreign radicals. He's possibly a threat, the attorney general himself
was briefed on the case, personally approved wiretaps, that, this is fine, this
is what we should be doing, even though this was a US citizen, even though he was born here. He was placed on a watchlist
to be detained in the event of a national emergency to
make sure he couldn't cause trouble, and of everybody the
FBI was tracking at the time, and the head of the FBI's
domestic intelligence unit said he thought this guy
was the most dangerous from the standpoint of national security. Do you recognize this case? That assessment, that he was the greatest
national security threat that we were facing, this was the person we
needed to be protected from, was made two days after he
gave the I Have A Dream speech. Now, of course we have seen reforms since then. We had the Church Committee in 1975, which struck what we were supposed to, what we were told was a grand bargain. The executive would retain
all of these powers, but we would get new
courts, intrusive courts, that would rigorously scrub the activities of these agencies, that we would
get congressional oversight committees in both the
House and the Senate, who would see everything
that was going on, who would never be lied to,
who would never be misled, who could make sure that these things were rigorously overseen. And for a time, it worked. But, some time, many decades after things go on, people get comfortable,
things begin to change, we start to see things fail at the edges. Now the people who sit on
those intelligence oversight committees get more than
twice as much in terms of campaign contributions
from people working for intelligence agencies, contractors, private war making industry, than does any other
person in the congress. They have incentives not to look too far, not to look too closely, and this is not again to
say, the system can't work. This is not to say this
is the end of the world, this is to say that we
must always be skeptical, we must always recognize
that it is the reflex, perhaps properly, perhaps improperly, of governments to conceal, to deceive, and mislead their publics, because they think it's
the right thing to do, they think it's for a good reason, and it is for this reason
that we must reject from our vocabulary terms
like national security, anything that has the word homeland in it should make you a little bit nervous, because they mean different
things to politicians than they do to you. National security is
what Martin Luther King was a threat to, right. These are euphemisms, not for saving lives, but
for political stability, for the continued continuity
of the status quo, that are intended to popularize
things that cannot be justified in plain language
with common definitions, this is why they're looking for new words. And this is where I have
to pivot, I apologize, we'll go a little bit long, but why this matters so much now. This is not just happening here, right. In Russia last year, they passed what they called
an Anti-Terrorism Package, the Yarovaya Packet. Russians call it the Big Brother Law, and if Russians are
calling surveillance law the Big Brother Law, you
know there's a problem. (audience laughing) China is passing new intrusive
surveillance bills that are modeled after the
US's own bills very carefully, so that the US cannot criticize them for using the same powers to
abuse their citizens' rights. We are witnessing the construction of a world in which the most common
political value is fear. From Washington to Moscow,
from Beijing to Berlin, we are all too frequently hearing from the most powerful officials arguging that we are living in
the midst of a period of unprecedented danger,
every day some new threat, that the threats we face
today are greater than ever, and therefore, things must change, we
must depart from tradition. Since the turning of the
millennium the last decade, this has given rise to a
creeping authoritarianism, a belief that the single
most important factor in determining the
direction of our society are the desires of our government. Where the morality of a
given thing has become less important than the
simple lawfulness of it, this is a system called legalism. If it is legal, then it doesn't matter, that's the end of the conversation. Hard won prohibitions from history are being
overturned or ignored on the basis of nothing more than a claim that this has become necessary, because these are dangerous times. After all, when you live
in a world of terrorists and madmen, when every
bad thing that happens on every corner of the Earth is in your living room
by the end of the day, a world where your nearest
neighbor is potentially a foreign enemy, rights begin
to look like a vulnerability. Ladies and gentlemen, I disagree. If our strategy to defend against each new threat is to do away with the very
values that differentiated us from them, the right from the wrong, we have protected nothing,
and we have won even less. And what about when a law is passed, but the law itself should be disobeyed? The father of the idea of
America civil disobedience, an American philosopher
named Henry David Thoreau, argued that this is a duty that rests upon the shoulders of every individual. He said, it is not only,
or, sorry, forgive me, it is not desirable to cultivate
respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation, which
I have a right to assume, is to do at any time what I think right. Law, on it's own never made
men a whit more just, and by means of their
respect for that law, even the well disposed are
daily made agents of injustice. Put simply, this is to say the law is no substitute for conscience. Saying so does not make us anarchists, it makes us realists. Certainly, one need not look
very far back in history to find examples of abuse, inhumanity, that were clearly,
clearly, facially immoral, and yet, we do well to remember that from the violent
institutions of slavery, genocide, the disenfranchisement of women, to modern prohibitions as to who and how one can love another. These policies are more often than not entirely legal. I'm here to say tonight that the support of a majority can never transform a wrong into a right, and that dispossessing a minority of basic liberties, or perhaps entire
populations of their privacy, does not become permissible even if it is popular. What this means, ladies and gentlemen, although this may not be reassuring, although this may not
be a comfortable idea, is that sometimes the only moral choice is to break the law. And while we face challenges, right, you all know better than I whose hands rest on the
lever of powers today. If reform is to be had, if progress is to be made once again, it will not be granted, it will not be given to us as a gift. Frederick Douglass said famously, power concedes nothing without a demand. It will be made in the face of resistance and abuse from the powerful
and the privileged, because these are those
who need rights the least. These are those who are
impacted by abuses the least. They are sheltered, not only from the consequences of their decisions, they're sheltered from our laws, they are sheltered from
the necessity of rights. This is not a challenge that we asked for, nobody woke up and said please,
give me a problem to solve. But this is a challenge for our
generation nonetheless. When you look at the news, when you look at the rhetoric
that's being thrown around, when you see the rise of ultra nationalism, racialized violence, discrimination, the abuse of minorities, the closing of our civil discourse, it's really easy to get worried, right, it's very easy to feel that things are slipping out of control, perhaps there's nothing we can do, right, and to think, what is
this going to do to me, what is this going to do to my friends, what is going to happen to
the people who are sitting next to me in this auditorium, who don't have those same insulations, who don't have those same privileges, but I'm here to say, don't be afraid, because if there's one
thing you can learn from me, whether you think I'm a good guy or whether you think I'm a bad guy, whether you think I am the worst person that's appeared throughout history, the lesson we can draw from
this is that sometimes, whether it comes to our courts, whether it comes to our congress, whether it comes to our
president, our White House, who assigned into law
reforms that he once opposed because we had new facts, once voice is enough to change the world, and I think it should be yours. Thank you. – Some of you, some of
you may have thought that he wasn't answering my question. Let me sum up what he said in the words of Benjamin Franklin. Those would surrender their liberty for security deserve neither. And what that does is
answer the ultimate question we're asking all the time today, indeed a question I was
given to ask up here today, and that is where's the line
between security and liberty, there isn't any line. Our liberty is our security, and like those people in Philadelphia, if you have to die for that liberty, that ensures that security. There is no line, not in my view, anyway. What I'd like to do now is turn it over to the students because this is your show. Let me first of all thank the
media group in particular, because I know they put
this on in many respects, and IHS for helping. Let's have the questions, please. Could you tell us your group, too? – Good afternoon Mr. Snowden, my name is George Wanzey, and I'm with the Black Law
School Student Association. My question for you is in regards to the Trump administration, in particular the role that
whistleblowers and leakers have come to play with
this administration, and what the potential
significance of crack downs are, and what this could mean
for an administration that views the press as
the opposition party. – This is a great question,
it's a difficult one. We see again and again, whether it's just the guy's
tax returns or his policies, his ideas for where the
country should be headed, he says, I'm not gonna
talk about my plans, I'm not gonna talk about my intentions, he's sort of forgetting who
he works for, which is us. This is a fundamentally dangerous thing, and we already see the systemic response. I have hope for those who are
still in government, right. Again, like, when I worked at NSA, when I worked at the CIA, I got the same thing everybody else did, I got the emails that popped in my inbox, they go to everybody in the workforce whenever there's some controversy, that says, politely, remember, you're not supposed to
be talking to the press, which is a little bit of
an implicit threat there, but I didn't take it that way at the time, but, they also told you
how to think about it. They said, here's sort of the
organization's position on it, here's our representation of the facts, and it's very likely that
this is happening right now, right, whether we're talking about ICE and border patrol, whether we're talking about
people in the military, there is a lot of messaging
that's happening internally, but just because the executive
branch of government changes, just because the legislative
branch of government changes, just because the courts themselves change, doesn't mean that everyone
else in the country changed. We have political obligations
in the United States, people who go in and work
for these organizations, there are not two
politics, right, you know, there have been people who said, one of the early criticisms with me was, oh, this guy broke an oath, he
promised not to tell secrets. That's not actually how it works, there is no oath of secrecy
in the United States. There's a classified
nondisclosure agreement, a civil agreement which is
a standard government form, but there is also the actual
oath, the oath of service, which is to support and
defend the Constitution of the United States, not
the president, not Congress, not anything else, the
Constitution of the United States, against all enemies, both foreign, and domestic. Now, this is not to say the
president's investigating me, right, I'm not gonna
take a position on that, but we have values, constitutional values, that are increasingly
being called into question, often with flimsy or nonexistent justifications for that. That raises the question of what protects them? The Constitution is never
gonna jump off the table and protect your rights, right, it's paper and ink at the end of the day. What gives it power is our willingness to go to bat for it, and I would say, in this
case, with these leaks, we are seeing people who are
risking serious consequences to do what, one would hope, would believe, would be their sincere belief that it is the best way to keep that oath. Now, how that works out in the end, it's too early to say, is this a mistake, are they criminal
lawbreakers who did no good and only caused harm, we'll see, right? But the fact that we see these leaks, the fact that we see
people willing to stand up and risk revelation,
consequences, persecution, and we don't see this in countries like China,
Russia, even France and Germany, is an indication to me
that the American spirit has not gone, it has not
disappeared, it has not vanished, it is under pressure, but I think that pressure is more likely to reawaken it than it is to destroy it. – [George] Thank you. – Kim Beck. – Mr. Snowden, I'm the president of the
Student Veterans Group here, and I was an Army Ranger who was deployed in Afghanistan in 2010. I was part of a JSOC task
force that was implicated during the WikiLeaks break at that time. My question to you is what
ethical responsibility do investigative journalists
and whistleblowers have to the lives of our for deploy troops? – This is a really good
question and I'm glad you asked, because this gets into a lot of things, criticisms that sometimes
people are too polite to bring up, which is basically,
did I place lives at risk, the, what about WikiLeaks, right, did they place lives at risk, and how does this, how
can this work out, right, should we try to protect this,
or should we just ignore it, should we just say oh,
these guys signed up for a dangerous job. Of course, for me, I think we
do have some responsibility, and that's why I went about
disclosure the way I did. The number of documents that I published, not everybody knows this, is zero. I could've uploaded these things online, I could've sent them to WikiLeaks, but I didn't for a specific reason. I gathered what I believed to be evidence of criminal wrongdoing, or unwise policies, right, things that had an impact
or implication on rights, as well as documents that I
never intended to be published, right, but journalists
needed to have access to, to understand where these
programs are effective, where they do need to be
protected and perpetuated, and where they're not, and where the government
is basically snowing them and saying, oh, no, this is fine, we don't do that kind of stuff. Because the government, of course, just basically says, oh, no, none of this should ever be published. They had to have the context, right, as well as the smoking gun. So, each journalist that
received this material from me was required as a condition
of access to the archive not to publish any story simply because it was interesting, simply because it was newsworthy. They were required to
state an independent, editorial judgment that each story was in the public interest to know. This meant that there would
actually be some public value, rather than simply,
it's informative, right, it's some secret that people didn't know. In all cases that I'm aware
of, this process was followed. Now, do I agree with every
publication decision, no, I don't, but this is actually the reason why I made sure that I was not in
the process of publication, because I'm not the president, right, I should not be making decisions, nor do I believe any individual should strictly be making
decisions on their own about what should be known,
what should not be known. Now, I'm pretty conservative, there are other people
who disagree, WikiLeaks, for example, takes a very
different position on this, but I went further beyond this. The journalists, before
they published any story that they independently
said this needs to be known, went to the government in
advance of publication, they were required to do this by me, to give the government
a chance to argue back exactly this thing. Maybe I didn't understand what
the hell I was talking about. Maybe I didn't understand
what these documents meant. Maybe I misrepresented
them to the journalists, you know, tried to push them
in a political direction or something like that. Maybe the journalists
couldn't see the big picture, and this would impact lives, right, so they would get hurt
in Afghanistan and Iraq, somebody somewhere would come to harm, some program would be
shut that was necessary and valuable and saving lives everyday, and in all cases, that happened, right, the government didn't have a veto, right, but they had a chance to make their case, and there are some cases where they changed stories as a result. I'm not aware that they actually
killed a story completely or they spiked it, but
they did change them. Now, the idea here, why I was doing this, was to replicate that same
system of checks and balances that's supposed to be functioning amongst the government, the
White House administration, you know, the courts, and the legislature. If I went and said, you know, I'm just gonna do this my own way, that wouldn't really mesh properly with, with what the real problem was. Now, did I do it right? Does that mean nobody could be harmed, nobody could be risked,
there was no danger at all, it doesn't, right? Things could go wrong,
problems could still happen, but ultimately, we have to argue on the
basis of evidence today. In 2013, a lot of people came forward, and they said, look, this is dangerous, people are gonna have
blood on their hands, any journalist touching these documents, you know, lives are gonna be lost, but by 2017, nobody
talks like that anymore. There has been no public evidence at all that's been presented by the government that anyone has come to harm as a result of these disclosures. We know for sure no one's
died or been harmed. There have been allegations, right, that this has made intelligence
collection more difficult here, maybe somebody's
changed their methods of communicating there,
it's possible it's true, we can't prove it, we can't disprove it, there have been studies
done that have said that's not the case but
we don't really know. But the central question
that we need to answer here to resolve this is, if something had been published because the public could
not cast their vote in an informed way, without this information, should it be, even if there's some
potential risk involved in that process, this is a hard question, right, everybody has to come
to their own decision, but this is why the
First Amendment is first. This is why, more than anything else, we protect the freedom of
press in the United States, because while we see officials
talk about allegations of harm, right, talk about
potentialities of risks, what they're actually doing
is shifting the conversation from the concrete harms of these unlawful programs, of these specific facts and
circumstances which we had, which we know, which we can prove, to the theoretical risks
of doing journalism. Somebody can get a story wrong, and it could have consequences. Ultimately, I will always
come down on the side of the press, because that is the way
our country is designed. I do not intend and I do not
recommend that anybody else should try to place
anybody at risk, right, it doesn't matter
whether you're a soldier, it doesn't matter whether
you're an ordinary person, we should always try to mitigate harms, we should try to mitigate the risks of these conversations,
but at the same time, we should make sure that we
remember every democracy, modern democracy in the United States, every government, every White House, every president we've had
derives their legitimacy from a single point, the consent of the governed, and hopefully anybody who's
in college can tell you consent is only meaningful
if it's informed. – Thank you, sir. – That invites another question I'd like to ask really quickly. Today, the fourth estate, and
I agree with your comments, Jefferson said if it
came between government and newspapers, he'd pick newspapers, and that was a hell of a
statement coming from Jefferson after all the problems he'd
had with newspapers, but, today many would claim
that the fourth estate has become another wing
of the corporatocracy, that actually speaks whatever
words their particular element of the corporatocracy
wants them to speak, whether it's MSNBC, NBC, or whatever, what would you say to that? – We're never gonna have
perfect journalism, right. We've got bad reportage that
comes out of news media, corporate media,
independent media, bloggers, if people are writing stories, some stories are gonna be wrong. Do we give up because of that, no. Is there undue influence in the media from powerful institutions, yes. Anybody, particularly in a minority group, could tell you that, look, if you don't have access to money, to power, to resources, to influence, it's very difficult to be, not only heard, but even to be talked about fairly, because other people are gonna
be painting your portrait with a brush provided by your enemies. Again, I don't wanna speak
beyond my expertise here, I don't wanna pretend
that I have the answers to these, these are classic
hard problems in democracy, but, I think the answer to this
is not that we shut down, that we go, oh, we can't trust the media, it's to learn to think critically. In every case, the answer to bad speech is not censorship, right, the answer to bad speech is
more speech, better speech. Ultimately, as long as we
remember a single point, which is that which can be
asserted without evidence must be dismissed without evidence. We can have a fact based conversation regardless of how people
are writing about it. We can arrive at our own decisions, in an informed and reasoned way. – Ultimate purpose of a university is to teach people to think critically. Next question. – Hi, Mr. Snowden, my name's Jenny, I'm an international Chinese
student from Project Pengyou, Project Pengyou is a club that we try to build empathy between US and China on the grassroot level. So, back in 2013, when you chose Hong Kong
as your safety harbor, many comments are saying
that it has strained US/China relationship, especially during the time when President Xi was newly elected. So, my question is have you
anticipated that critic when, after your action, and
what's your thoughts on that? Thank you. – No, not really, 'cause, I mean, that, a lot of this is people
put too much sort of mastermind influence in it. They think, you know,
myself, or the journalists, or perhaps us, are in, like, conspiracy, we're sitting around and, like, we're moving these chess pieces, deciding when to release
this story, or whatever, I had no influence on
the editorial decision of when particular stories were published, when they ran, because
I'm not a journalist, I'm not an editor, right, I'm the source. I simply say, this is what's going on, and they decide when and how to run that. Beyond that, there's a question, did it actually strain US/China relations, I don't think that's actually the case, I think more than anything else, the activities of the
Chinese government and the United States government are the things that strained relations. And there's a larger idea here, which is, when someone reveals a secret, are they the one who caused harm, right, of consequence from things
that came out of this, or are the people that did
the activity that is being revealed the one who
actually caused the harm? Right, US and China relations,
even particularly today, do not seem to be defined on
the basis of surveillance, on the basis of military
force, anything like that, so much as they are on the basis of trade. We're talking about currency manipulation and things like that, that's
what gets all the ink nowadays. But were that not the case, right, and we look at cases like, the NSA hacking into Chinese hospitals, Chinese universities, the
Chinese have done similar things, I'm not aware of them targeting
civilian infrastructure, but that wasn't my specialty, I looked at hacking defense
agencies and things like that. Is the revelation of this the actual source of harm, or is the fact that somebody,
somewhere made a decision, and said, you know what, it is a hospital, if something goes wrong,
lives would be lost, but we really want to
have control of this point of infrastructure for
whatever reason, right, whether it's a contingency for military, intelligence, or economic conflict, whether it's simple traditional espionage, the kind that always happens, or other things, it is institutions and
organizations that are responsible for their own decisions, not newspapers. – I'd just like to add to that, and to answer your question, Richard Haass and I conducted
policy planning talks in Beijing with Wang Yi
and Cui Tiankai in 2001, July of 2001. Cui Tiankai is now the
ambassador to the United States from China, and Wang Yi,
as you probably know, is their foreign minister. We lectured them at that
point on human rights. Were I in Beijing again, with a country behind me
that had tortured people, I would find it extremely difficult to deliver those talking points. That's a change, that's a major change. Next question, please. – [Tucker] If anyone from
the audience would like to ask a question, come on up. – The line up has started. Please. – Sorry. My name is Basil Ossman, throughout history, the
nobles and aristocrats always competed with the king for power, and the nobles and aristocrats
controlled all the wealth, while the king controlled
all the authority. Do you think today companies
like Facebook and Google and Amazon, that have all
this information about us, and all, they virtually
collect everything about us with our consent in some way. Do you think the government is
trying to compete with them, and reach a point where they cannot use their knowledge of us
against the government? – Actually, no. I think rather they're
trying to co-opt them. I think we see something
that is less about whether you're in government,
whether you're in industry, and more in terms of
are you a member of this sort of elite influential class. We see that they don't really care nowadays at the high echelons of society about whether you're
a particular religion, or this, that, or the other, it's about do you have clout, right, do you have access to resources, do you have access to
influence, if you do, you're in. When we look at what actually happened, for those who are not familiar with the NSA's sort of
programs that we saw, there is, in 2013, the CIA's CTO, a guy named Gus Hunt, who I actually had many
meetings with when I worked on the CIA account for Dell, said, sort of accidentally,
at a trade show, what had become the new strategy, we wanna collect everything
and hang on to it forever. When you think about these
digital domain companies, it's not about competition with them. It's about co-opting them
and indoctrinating them, and we see this quite clearly
when we look at the timeline of what are called PRISM partners, these are of course the
largest internet companies in the United States that voluntarily began providing the government with access to their customers' records
beyond what the law required, and you see there's a very clear timeline where each of these guys
was targeted on the basis of their impact and their
influence in sort of the internet economy and infrastructure,
and it goes on, and on, and on, it wasn't just the
providers themselves, right, it's also, this is called
upstream collection, and I know you can't
see it very well, but, this is a slide that was the
first public mention of it. Upstream communication
is your communications, not just going on to
Facebook specifically, or Google specifically,
but going anywhere, and as it crosses internet
service providers, as it crosses
telecommunications companies, groups like FAIRVIEW, like BLARNEY, these are the CIA code names for groups like AT&T and Verizon. And the question is, what were they, what was sort of happening
with this type of information, this type of material, excuse me, I'm just trying to find
a particular slide here, what was the usefulness of this stuff, and why was it happening? In many cases, it was
actually profit driven. The government said, well,
we'll reimburse costs, we'll provide a new line of business, we'll shelter you from liability claims, this was the central argument
in surveillance reform in 2008 that was pushed through in response to the Bush warrantless
wiretapping program. AT&T had basically been
unconstitutionally spying on everybody in the United
States and around the world, secretly on behalf of the government, not just in the post 9/11 era, but, you know, as long as they'd existed. But that's a felony in the United States, and it also has civil penalties. So, their customers could
now sue them for the largest corporate damages in history, but, in 2008, they got a new law called the Protect America Act, which should have been a
red flag for everybody, that gave them retroactive immunity, it said, for all the laws
they had already broken, the government would be
sure they could not be sued. Shortly thereafter, the
AT&T changed their program, you see here the reference
in the second paragraph that says July 2008, which is related to the
passage of this bill, where they had been collecting
everything you had done on their infrastructure and stored records of it going back to 1987. So, if you're an AT&T customer, you've always been an AT&T
customer, you're younger, you were born in 1987 or after, everything you've ever
said, they have a copy of, they still have a copy of. And they're beginning to
sell this to the government as a service, right,
without requiring a warrant, lower standards of sharing, simple subpoena authorities
and things like that, this getting into legalism
that you don't need to drill down into, but the idea here is, it's not about competition. It's about collaboration. These guys see themselves, in large part, as all players on the same team for influence and control. This is not to say that
Google is specifically out to get you, but their interests
are not the same as yours. – Um, well, do you, but this is all
subject to the agreement of the corporations to
work with the government, and they have the power to say no. Do you think the NSA is therefore trying to eliminate that
middleman and do everything without seeking help from someone else, and keep it contained within? So they don't have to
rely on their agreement? – That's what the, that's
what the upstream agreement is about, is, look, they
see this stuff transiting the internet, right, and rather than getting at the endpoints, where it's your computer or
Facebook's server, right, they try to catch it as it crosses, they get somebody in the middle, right, whether it's the ISPs, the TELCOs, and they all sort of
play side against side, group off group, to do this. There is a specific example of where NSA had lawful access, of course through subpoena authorities, through warrants and everything else, to submit demands to these companies, where a judge signs a warrant
and get anything they want, even without these new,
special, fancy surveillance laws that don't use real courts,
they use rubber stamp courts, but regardless of this, what they were doing was
they were going beyond that, and they were starting
to look at the links in Google's own network, right,
between their data centers. So, they'd have a data
center in the United Kingdom, they'd have a data center
in the United States, one in Hong Kong, one in
Switzerland, wherever, and these links between these data centers were not encrypted, right. So rather than asking
Google for information, what they would do is
they would just perch on these links, and they
would get it for free, they would get it under
different legal authorities, they wouldn't have any restrictions, they wouldn't have to
ask permission, right. And this is a dangerous
thing in a broader point, we need to end this
question just so we can get to other people, but people talk about, you know, privacy versus security
and they say that's what this is about, this is
not what that's about. This has never been a controversy of privacy and surveillance
because privacy, or, sorry, privacy and security, because
they are not competing values. When privacy increases of a person, their security increases. If no one knows what you're up to, no one can take action against you, no one can basically make you vulnerable. When you're being watched and
recorded everywhere you go, not only are you becoming less private, you are becoming less secure. What this is really about is this is about liberty versus surveillance, not versus security or
anything else like that. Surveillance preys on vulnerability. Surveillance preys on the lack of privacy, and when we get into this
and all these sort of end run games where they don't
wanna go to companies unless they absolutely have to, and if they do, they'll try
to get the company on board, rather than fighting them, and only as a last
resort will they actually actively fight the company if
the company has any backbone, the idea is what is liberty? You know, if you ask a bunch
of different people in the room they might have different ideas, but in a large way, liberty and what has made the American tradition so powerful, and
our project so successful, is the ability to act without permission. Liberty is freedom from permission. When the government is seeking
to expand its own liberties at the expense of the public's, that should be something
that alarms all of us. – Next question.
– Thank you so much. – Hi, Mr. Snowden, my name is Jacob, I'm a sophomore here, and my question kind
of goes right into what you were just talking about. With the advent, sort of, today, of remote controlled attacks, with radicalization via social
media, via the internet, you've spoken somewhat
derisively several times about these politicians who
will use fear as an excuse for infringements on liberties, or just increased surveillance, depending on how you look at it, is there no situation in
which increased surveillance is justified, would you say
that these remote controlled attacks do justify some
increased surveillance today, and if so, is there a right way to do it, is there a right way to go about it? – So, this is a good question, and it actually gets into
something that, again, the reason I speak broadly
about this is because it's difficult to cover nuance
in limited periods of time, but there's two broad
types of surveillance that are in broad use today. Mass surveillance, which
is what I have criticized, what I have revealed in the United States, we have the Fourth Amendment
in the United States, right, which prohibits against
unreasonable search of your private documents
and things like that, seeing what you're
doing, what you're up to, but also the seizure of them
in the first place, right, which means grabbing them. Now, this issue has never been settled
in the courts in modern day. The entire reason mass
surveillance is happening right now is because of a court decision
that happened in the 1970s, in a case called Smith versus Maryland, where one guy was making harassing
phone calls to one woman, she saw him drive past her
house or something like that, got his license plate, shortly before or after one
of these calls was made, went to the police, the police went to the phone
companies and said, look, in this case, we don't have a warrant. We do have this guy's license plate, we did see him going past, will you just give this
information to us voluntarily? And the phone company said, yeah, sure, whatever, fine, we'll give it to you. In that case, the Supreme
Court said this guy didn't have a right to privacy because they didn't actually wiretap him, they didn't listen to his calls, they just got the records of
who he had called and when, and it didn't come from him, it came from the phone company, 'cause the phone company said
these aren't his records, they're our records. This is called the Third-Party Doctrine. Since then, it has never
been revisited at this level, in the context of mass surveillance, but the problem is this. In that court decision, they were talking about lone individual, in a specific instance,
in a specific case. The government has interpreted
that in the past 40 years to mean, well, if one person, in one case, where they had eyes on this guy and he was doing all this stuff, and the company did it in a
very narrow, specific way, with just this range of calls here, we can do it to everyone,
everywhere, all the time, forever. If we can collect one guy's
phone calls without a warrant, we can collect everyone's
phone calls without a warrant, their emails, their
internet traffic, whatever, as long as it meets that same sort of idea where it's metadata, right. It's not what you say
in the communication, it's who you said it to, it's when, it's the same kind of
details a private eye would collect as they
follow you around all day. They see when you left
your house in the morning, they see where you went,
they see the cafe you ate at, they see who you met with at the cafe, but they can't sit right next to you and write down everything
you say because you might go, who is this weirdo that's sitting behind me everywhere I go and writing things down? But electronically, they
can assign a private eye to follow everyone in
the world all the time, and it's incredibly cheap,
it's incredibly easy. This was my job at NSA. On the other hand, we have targeted surveillance. And this, I am not a critic
of in quite the same way. This is where they go, we have a specific individual, is a known associate
of Al Qaeda operatives, we have evidence that
indicates he's planning attacks in, whatever, in Peshawar
or something like that, we had gone to a judge, the judge had said the
evidence is there, a standard, that authorizes a warrant
to go collect information against him, and then
they hack into his phone, or something else. That's fine, right. As long as it is always the least intrusive means of investigation necessary to achieve an
investigative purpose, right. This means you don't
go for the atomic bomb to swat a fly, right, you
climb the ladder and you go, look, nothing else worked, we
have to go after this person, and the judge says,
look, that's fine, right, and no judge in the world gets cold feet about authorizing warrants on terrorists, that just does not happen. Our secret rubber stamp FISA court, right, I talked before about
this sort of fake court, we have two courts in the United States, two systems, of course. We've got the ordinary,
open federal courts that everybody knows about, and as part of that grand
bargain in the 1970s, the Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Court, called the FISC. All the judges on this court are appointed by the same person, the Chief
Justice of the Supreme Court, right, who, at the time, now, is very seriously conservative, so you don't have a normal
mix of opinions on this court, and, in the 33 years that its decisions were being studied by Mother Jones, they saw the government
had requested warrants through this court about 33,900 times, and in those 33,900 times over 33 years, you know how many times the court said no? 11. Right, so it's not like
warrants are hard to get, it's not like this is a
huge burden that they can't go around, and all of our laws
are written in surveillance for such a way that they've got, like, 72 hour emergency provisions, where, if they think a
terrorist has just traveled, and they need to hit
this guy specifically, they can wiretap him first, then go to the judge three days later to actually do the warrant. So, they got lots of flexibility here. The problem is this. These are natural
limitations on the amount of surveillance that
the government can do, and the government
doesn't like that, right, and I don't mean this like the NSA is bad, you know, the American government is bad, all governments are like this, this is just the way that
power operates, right. They want the Maximalist position, and here's my biggest beef
with mass surveillance. The programs that I revealed, that everybody was saying was, oh my God, this is necessary to the
defense of the country, everything's going to end
if the secret gets out, the president himself, Barack Obama, appointed two independent
investigative commissions in the wake of the revelations of 2013, who looked into these mass
surveillance programs, they had complete access
to classified information, they interviewed the CIA
director, NSA director, FBI director, all these guys, and they could not find a single instance in more than 10 years of operation where this kind of mass surveillance had not only saved a life,
right, it had never done that, they said it had never even made a, quote, "concrete difference" in the outcome of any
counter-terrorism investigation. Moreover, it hadn't contributed to the discovery of a plot
or anything like that, the Bush era warrantless
wiretapping program called Stellar Wind was similar. This was the document that actually made me realize I need to come forward. It's long, a secret history,
if you're interested in it, search for Stellar Wind, Washington Post, you can read the entire document online and the analysis of it, we thought the program ended
when Bush said it ended, but it didn't, he actually
split it into two parts. The public part that the
government branded after the fact the Terrorist Surveillance Program, because the press found out about it, and they needed to describe
it, they shut down, but another part, called the PSP, the President's Surveillance Program, had secretly continued. The attorney general of
the United States had said this program is not lawful,
it's not appropriate, it should not be continued
under these legal authorities, rather than the president
saying okay, let's change it, let's move it to different
legal authorities, and this is the post nine era, 9/11 era, where any law could be passed,
anything could be justified. They said, nah, we don't wanna actually get permission for this. Instead, secretly, the
vice president's lawyer, David Addington, went to the NSA director, Michael Hayden, and
said, hey, NSA director, will you warrantlessly wiretap
everybody in the country, even if the attorney
general says it's not okay, because the president asked you to? And he said yes. Now, that's a fundamentally
dangerous thing, but here's the problem. Even with that program, and other mass surveillance programs, there were secret studies
that showed that it, too, hadn't made any concrete difference in terrorism investigations. So, for me, this raises
the central question. Why are politicians justifying programs on
the basis of saving lives, of countering terrorism,
if, for more than a decade, have never shown any value
for countering terrorism? They're not stupid, right, governments aren't, they're many things, but they're not often
incompetent across all levels, particularly the working level, right, when you go high up as a decision maker, you might get some questionable decisions. But the real answer is these programs were never about terrorism. They do have value, mass
surveillance has value, just not for saving lives. It is valuable for traditional espionage, diplomatic manipulation,
economic espionage, and social influence, right,
controlling the narrative, shaping the way the world
thinks about issues, and understanding what
everybody's thinking, who is connected to who. These programs are about power, right. Targeted investigation,
targeted surveillance, has a clear, centuries long
track record of working, of saving lives, why are
we not focusing on that? – [Jacob] Thank you. – Please. – Hi, Edward, my name is Danielle Gray, I'm a freshman–
– We're, we're gonna tolerate his patience for as long
as he will tolerate us. – Okay, awesome. So, I have a question. You were discussing a bit of the danger of having so much data in the hands of people who have power
and using that power to control people. How has the US government,
from what you've seen already, used our data to influence how we vote, influence how we spend our money, and also you mentioned that
companies can sell our data to the government. Have there been instances
of the government selling our data to others, and also is there a
potential of people hacking into the government data,
and that being a danger, like, what if insurance
companies could find out who has certain pre-existing conditions, charge us money, what
are some dangers here? – So, we have, there's a
lot of questions in there, but I'll try to go sort
of rapid fire through a couple of them. One, has the government
lost access to the, or lost control of the secrets, right, and their basic
argument for why we should be okay with this is they go, we're not using this for bad purposes, and we're the government, right, we're the frickin' NSA, nobody
can control a secret like us, right, we got clearances
and top secret vaults, guards, dogs, fences, and
all this stuff, right, your secret's safe with us, even if it's something you
don't want anybody to know. Yet, just in the last week, the CIA's top secret hacking tools are all over the internet, anybody can download them right now. It's honestly unbelievable
to me that this is still happening after so many examples, so many warnings that this
kind of stuff can be happening, the NSA had, excuse me, no, that was the NSA that happened this week, last month, it happened to the CIA. Before that, of course,
there's my revelations, WikiLeaks revelations,
all of these things, they indicate the government's
having a really hard time controlling these secrets, right, they say trust us with
this, it'll never get out, but it gets out all the time, these things are happening
not just once a year nowadays, they're happening
every couple months. The OPM hack is perhaps
the most famous example, if you work for the government, right, if you are a veteran, anybody who filled out
what's called a SF86, Standard Form 86, which is the government
clearance application, it's a 27 page long form, which is basically
anywhere you ever lived, have you ever been arrested,
did you ever go to a therapist, you know, all your family,
every job you've ever had, all of your friends, everybody
who knew you were here, so they can go, you're not a spy, right. But it's intensely private information, held for basically every
active duty service member who's got, because they've
all got secret clearances nowadays, and people who have
TS have even more in there, this was hacked, they believe
by the Chinese, right, and they had the entire database. Now, at last count, 1.4 million people have clearances in the United
States that are active, but many more have clearances,
filled out these forms, that are not active, right, that have just lapsed,
they're still in the database. If they can't protect the identities of their actual spies, right, how well do you think
they're actually protecting your phone calls, right, your emails, everything in your search history for the last five years or whatever. Corporations already have this, and they are abusing it in new ways, is it legal, is it illegal,
we don't really know, because the courts are
very hesitant to rule here. We will very likely see
these questions answered authoritatively in courts in
the next five to 10 years, but courts move extremely slowly. I think that the central question here is, are there authorities that are simply, are there databases, academics have looked into them, where, when you develop a certain richness of information, right, about
everybody who lives in an area, all of their social graphs,
right, who's connected to who, who calls who, where their
cell phones travel, right, what their medical histories
are, all of these things, you know everything about them. When I worked at NSA, where people always talk
about content versus metadata, for those who aren't familiar with it, content is what you say on the phone call, metadata is the fact that
the phone call occurred, when it happened, from where,
how long it existed for, I didn't really care about content, because content takes a
long time and people lie, right, if I'm listening
to your phone call, what you say on it, you can talk around things,
you can use code words, particularly if you're
up to no good, right, but metadata doesn't lie. The fact that you made
the phone call is there, it's instant, computers can handle it, can analyze it instantly. I can tell who you love just from
your phone records, right, I can see who you call in
the middle of the night. I can see where your cell phone goes on the basis of its location data in the middle of the night, and what other cell phone
ends up in the same place. It's not just about this, it's about, you know,
your internet traffic, I don't need to see what
article you read on a website, which is considered content. If I can see it's a gay and
lesbian website, right, itself, basically, the way
encryption content provisions on the internet work right now, say you went to whatever story, its headline, that would be a content based decision, but saying you went to
IP address, you know, whatever digits,, which happens to be the
New York Times website, there are no legal protections for that. I can look at that right now
and nobody's gonna stop me, nobody's gonna put me in jail for it, I just have to mock up
a justification for it. This exists for everyone, everywhere, corporations are doing this same thing, not to be routine on this, but the ultimate question
that you asked is, what is this stuff being used for? Like, how is it actually impacting people? When you look at that, we see that their own documents, this is from my archive
the journalists published, they found that the NSA's
own classified documents said they were spying on
pornography viewing habits of people whose politics
they did not like. Now, in their defense, given the mood at the time and whatnot, if you consider this a defense at all, these individuals were Islamists, but the NSA admitted
in their own reporting that they were not terrorists, they were not suspected of terrorism, and they were not advocating
violence specifically, they just didn't like
the political influence they had on people. They were collecting, in partnership with
our Five Eyes partners, for people who haven't heard of Five Eyes it sounds like a James Bond
organization, but it's real, it's the United States,
the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. The GCHQ, was anybody
who used Yahoo messenger back in the day, every five minutes, they were saving a snap from your webcam as it crossed the internet. They didn't care if it was in your house, didn't care if it was in your
bedroom, anything like that. We see the Australian Federal Police today are using these same mass
surveillance authorities that were justified on
countering terrorism to identify the sources of journalists. We saw that this same
kind of mass collection of information this time was happening via the Australians, but it was
shared back and forth with us, to target US law firms, this is not lawful in the United States, but we did it anyway,
nobody goes to jail for it, nobody gets punished. They were spying on law firms, why? Was it a criminal defense
of a terrorist case, and they were hoping they would
sort of crack the network, no, unfortunately, it might
be reassuring if it was, this was a trade negotiation
between Indonesia, and I believe Australia
over the price of shrimp and clove cigarettes. That is the grand goal
of mass surveillance. You know, it goes on and on and on, where they're hacking the
cards that go in your phone that hold the keys that
secure your communications, we hacked Belgium, for God's sake, which is not exactly, you know, considered the hotbed
of nuclear proliferation or anything today, and the problem with this is, we had legal access to this data already. Countries have agreements
that are called MLATs, Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties, where they can go, look, we've got a warrant from a US court, based on these grounds, we're gonna send it to your police agency, your policy agency is then gonna ask your telecommunications provider on our behalf for this terrorist investigation, but they didn't want to do that. Again, it's about maximizing
capability, authority, minimizing oversight, and
this goes on and on and on, where even Canada was getting
in on this kind of thing, targeting emails that were
sent to government services, they were collecting information
on app store downloads and things like that,
although in this case, it was a Chinese app store. If it is on the internet, and it has information
about people's lives, their activities, and
is not being protected, it is not being defended
in a meaningful way, they're gonna go after it,
because that's what they do. – You've been very
generous with your time, we're about 20 minutes
over the scheduled time, one more question, or? – Please, let's take one more,
and then we'll call it there. – Okay. Please. – Thank you Mr. Snowden, it's
really an honor to be here. So, in retrospect, it seems
that democracy has never prevailed over the needs
for national security or social stability, et cetera, for instance, excessive
surveillance and the censorship of our nuclear scientists and citizens of foreign descent during World War II, and reports that show during
the oil embargo of 1973, the government has actually
made plans to conduct military operations in Saudi Arabia
to stabilize the oil market. So, it seems that the
government fought in the name to preserve democracy, but
in so many undemocratic ways, which leads to the question, how do we reconcile between the interests of the state and our own rights? – You know, this is the perfect question, I think, to close on, because, well, you guys have heard a lot of things today. Some of which sound pretty extreme in terms of
the government's capabilities, but there is the argument, again, that we addressed initially of, in this dangerous world,
should they be doing this, will this protect us,
will this keep us safe, mass surveillance, there's
not a lot of evidence that it's the case, but what
about all that other stuff? What about getting a better deal on shrimp and clove cigarettes,
should we be doing that? The answer is, this is not
a question to be answered by a few officials behind closed doors. This is something that, maybe nationally,
we wanna say is okay. Maybe we wanna say we wanna
have a panopticon government, maybe we want to say the
government has the absolute authority to unlock anybody's
iPhone at any moment, turn on any camera, anywhere, turn on any microphone in any pocket, because it's valuable, because
it makes them more powerful, and we want the government
to be as powerful as possible because we trust the government. Maybe that's the case. But if that is to be true, that's a conversation that
we have to have in the open, in the light of day, right,
not behind closed doors. What happens in the last
decades is the government removed the public's seat at the table. In the last few years,
we're getting it back, because now we know what's going on, now we can say something about it, but we don't have that much
influence, unfortunately. A vote only does so much. The current status of our national
political equilibrium should be all the evidence
of that that we need, where we can have a
majority that votes for one, and another ends up in power. But sometimes the answers are unsatisfying when it comes to democracy. What we can do is make the
government as accountable, as responsible, and as transparent as possible, given the
constraints of the day. As long we stick to facts, right, as long as we stop saying,
oh, mass surveillance, we need to spy on everybody
because it's saving lives when it's not and there's
no evidence of that, but it is really great for
getting a better deal on shrimp, we need to have that kind of debate. One of the things that
I would say in finality, it didn't come up, but, people are concerned about, this idea of whistleblowing, right, people reveal secret
information about what's going on in government, is it
a good thing or a bad thing? The answer is, it depends. We've seen leaks in the last few days that say the US was planning
to strike North Korea's missiles on the launchpad, right. They have talked about military operations of plans against Al Qaeda in the past, the government leaked what they call the conference call of doom, where they said the FBI
was tapping Al Qaeda leadership's coordination calls, and they did it for a political impact, they wanted to basically
make people more worried about terrorism so they
gave this to the newspapers, but these are leaks that have clear consequences in terms of
intelligence collection without a clear public benefit, right. They have a political benefit,
but not a public benefit. So, people go, well, how do
we mitigate these things, we can't punish the government
for leaking whatever it wants because it's the government,
it makes the rules, it decides who gets prosecuted, and they're not gonna
prosecute their own on that. What about this idea of proper channels? There's a criticism against me, and every other whistleblower, that says look, this guy revealed
the CIA's torture program or whatever, for the poor
gentleman, John Kiriakou, who went to prison for that, the CIA's operations
are hurting the Iranian nuclear program, that actually
ended up accelerating it, because it was so incompetently managed, he also went to prison. All of these things, if they had just told the
government through the right way, things would be better. Right, you would be able
to make sure congress knows about these things, and nobody in the public
has to be any wiser. But unfortunately, congress,
in many cases, know. They had testimony earlier, where you saw the director of
national intelligence saying, no, not wittingly, we don't
spy on American citizens, when they were doing exactly that, Senator Ron Wyden knew that was the case, that's why he asked the question. The director of national
intelligence wasn't surprised by it, he got the questions
24 hours in advance. These guys knew, right, they weren't trying to deceive each other, they were trying to deceive the public. Sometimes, the person
that needs to be notified is not the government. The government is the cause
of the problem, right, this is like, reporting that the wolf is
eating lambs to the wolf, and we have actual evidence of that. There's a case of an
individual named Thomas Drake, if you've never heard of Thomas Drake, I encourage you to look up his name, read about his experiences, he tried to blow the whistle the proper way. Went through all the
proper channels at the NSA, the Department of Defense's
Inspector General, went to congress, told all
these guys what was going on, that it was unconstitutional,
that it was illegal, and at every turn, they told him, you don't really understand this, this is above your pay grade,
you're getting this wrong, it's not unconstitutional,
the lawyers say it's fine, don't worry about this. In fact, we have the number
two lawyer in the entire CIA who is asked about this, Thomas Drake, and what he did when
Thomas Drake came to him, because Thomas Drake
actually notified this guy that this was happening, this is the program that was written out of law after I came forward, right, Thomas Drake tried to
stop it a decade earlier, but failed, because this is
what proper channels look like. – If he came to me, someone who was not running the program, and told me that we were running amuck, essentially,
and violating the Constitution. There's no doubt in my
mind I would have told him, you know, go talk to your management, don't bother me with this. I mean, you know, you did, the minute he said, if he did say, you're using this to
violate the Constitution, I mean, I probably would
have stopped the conversation at that point, quite frankly. So, I mean, if that's
what he said he said, then anything after that I probably wasn't listening to anyway. – Proper channels, ladies and gentlemen. If I could close on a specific note here, there's a lot of leaking going on nowadays, perhaps more
than we've ever seen. There's gonna be good,
there's gonna be bad. And the question is, who's the
right person to decide this, right, I'm not the president,
you're not the president, the person who is the president, well, they have their own way of
looking at these sort of things. Ultimately, whistleblowers
are elected by circumstance. Doesn't matter who you are. Doesn't matter why you did it. What matters is what you witnessed, what the truth is. If you have seen a crime, if you have seen some injustice, if you see something wrong that you think could be changed by speaking out, by
doing something about it, you need to think very seriously about what your obligations are. Not just to the ideas of altruism, right, a better future, serving
democracy or whatever, but to yourself, because
when we tolerate injustice, and we all have a level of this, right, every day we have a level of inhumanity, instability, injustice,
that we can tolerate. When we see a homeless person
on the street, a panhandler, and we turn our heads away, we go, oh, I don't have time for this today, I can't deal with it,
there's too much going on, but then there's one step further. I would not encourage anybody to come forward if they didn't think it could make a difference. But there are cases where it can, right. And when you see something, something wrong, and you think the world should be better, you think the program could be better, you think the program is
supposed to be better, you think it is against the law for things to be occurring as they are, or even if it's not illegal,
it is clearly immoral, as so many institutions
throughout history have been, do you have an obligation to resist it? You have a voice, ladies and gentlemen, and that voice matters. It is not enough to believe in something. If you want to see a better world, you have to make it. Don't believe in something. Stand for something. Use your voice, and good luck. Thank you. – Thank you. As you can see, there are
quite a few people left. You know, as he was
talking there at the end, I couldn't help but think of those last lines of Die Losung
from Bertolt Brecht where, you know, the GDR,
East Germany, he says, maybe the government
should hold an election and elect a new people. Thank you. – Thank you, and good night. (computer chiming)

17 thoughts on “Snowden: Democracy Under Surveillance

  • Strange I've experienced this same kind of surveillance from next door. Except for I hear dads make dirty comments and laugh with their lil boys about the private things they see in neighbor's homes and their sexual organs . I told FBI about it and an Elvis told me to smoke Marijuana.
    If it wasn't for Ed Snowden I wouldn't have known the government is part of this as well. Know wonder Police or FBI never helped me from February 2017 to current June 1 2019 . Kailua Kona Hawaii.

  • I'm not making a fuss for my own security
    i am giving out information to give security to whoever like my family who could be presently at risk
    with the security they deserve, doing just what Edward has done sets this ball rolling i felt
    the next stage had to occur weather we like it or not because we are on the brink of disasters
    of multiversal proportions how can we carry on amongst a planet that has so many sharp
    edges, if we don't shave them off from time to time. we have left these sharp edges to develop
    some of these edges are natural and have just been increased, others we have created, we have
    raped and pillaged the planet earth it doesn't belong to us we belong to the planet it's our gift from
    Mother Nature, we all need to see this Edward can you understand without making me into a joke
    for people fodder. please stick up for me i try to stick up for you in my own minimilist fashion.

  • As Edward was speaking, I thought it curious how congressional oversight is truly proving to be tampered with by the heads of the DOJ and FBI, seeing that congress can’t even get these folks to release information when requested under the freedom of information act. How can their be actual oversight when the heads of such organizations are allowed to go rogue like this and not comply with government requests for information for the very purpose of providing oversight into their activities. If congress cannot control this kind of deliberate noncompliance from thwarting their duty of maintaining oversight of the activities of such entities, then clearly our own congressional leaders have lost control of the role of government in America. And if this same deliberate refusal is taken towards private individuals making FOIA requests, then we the people are being disallowed from our own right to oversight by such rogue elements in our government. The American government should be far more willing to swiftly and harshly punish those who continuously violate the Freedom of Information Act by an intentional failure to honor legitimate legal requests made under that legal provision.

  • Scott Michelman is an ACLU lawyer thats involved in criminal human trafficking. I caught a pool of professional ppl in DC, trying to set me up for a story or killing. Investigate Housing Up 342 37th. St SE Washington DC 20019. Its a federal house of horrors.

  • The only reason, only reason for confidentiality agreements is to shut those up and criminalize those who feel some moral societal boundary has been crossed, this should not be confused with National Security.

  • Laws are not inherently just, but neither are individual people. A terrorist who murders 50 gays in a nightclub thinks he's doing what's right. He also believes that he's only breaking unjust laws. Sometimes the majority of people are right, the minority is wrong, and the laws should be obeyed.

  • Fascinating discussion. I'm a tad wary of Snowden, I think he's a bit of a radical, but he did the American people a great service by releasing the classified documents, and revealing the kind of internal spying practices initiated by the NSA and other affiliated governmental divisions.

  • Holy crap Learn Liberty. I don't remember the last time one of your videos was more than 5 minutes long. Is it Christmas already?

  • "Learn to think critically. That which can be asserted without evidence must be dismissed without evidence."

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