Keeping a mostly low profile as a US fugitive in Moscow, former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden has suddenly resurfaced in the media, saying he is confident his personal “mission is already accomplished” and he has “already won” after leaking NSA secrets. The challenge now, he believes, is to stress the importance of privacy and urge an end to mass government surveillance.
Snowden gave a more than 14-hour interview to the Washington Post, which said it is the first he has conducted in person since arriving in the Russian capital in June. He followed that up by speaking directly to the British public in a televised message that was to be broadcast yesterday as an alternative to Queen Elizabeth II’s annual Christmas speech.
Snowden told the Post he was satisfied because journalists have been able to tell the story of the US government’s collection of bulk Internet and telephone records, an activity that has grown dramatically since the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
“For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished,” he said in the interview, which was published online. “I already won.”
“As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated,” Snowden told the Post. “Because, remember, I didn’t want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself.”
Snowden also gave an insight into his life in Russia, suggesting that he is not getting out much by being “an indoor cat.”
He then explained why he believes mass surveillance by governments is wrong.
“The conversation occurring today will determine the amount of trust we can place both in the technology that surrounds us and the government that regulates it,” he said, according to excerpts from the message released by the UK’s Channel 4.
“Together we can find a better balance, end mass surveillance and remind the government that if it really wants to know how we feel, asking is always cheaper than spying,” Snowden said.
The queen delivers Britain’s Royal Christmas Message, but Channel 4 has used its annual alternative version to give a platform to people as diverse as then-Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad in 2008, and fictional characters including Ali G and Marge Simpson in 1999 and 2004 respectively.
In his UK message, Snowden called modern surveillance more invasive than any envisioned by 1984 author George Orwell, saying that children today would grow up without knowing what it means to have an unrecorded or private moment.
“That’s a problem because privacy matters, privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be,” he said.
Snowden, now 30, said he is not being disloyal to the US or to his former employer.
“I am not trying to bring down the NSA, I am working to improve the NSA,” he said. “I am still working for the NSA right now. They are the only ones who don’t realize it.”
Snowden was interviewed by the Post in Moscow over two days by reporter Barton Gellman, who has received numerous leaks from Snowden. The interview was conducted six months after Snowden’s revelations first appeared in the Post and the Guardian newspaper.