In an interview with Barton Gellman of the Washington Post, Edward Snowden says he believes he has accomplished his mission of facilitating a debate in America and the world on the surveillance state. Gellman spoke with Snowden in Russia in a wide ranging interview about both Snowden’s motivations and response to his critics.
Six months after the first revelations appeared in The Washington Post and Britain’s Guardian newspaper, Snowden agreed to reflect at length on the roots and repercussions of his choice. He was relaxed and animated over two days of nearly unbroken conversation, fueled by burgers, pasta, ice cream and Russian pastry…
“For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished,” he said. “I already won. As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated. Because, remember, I didn’t want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself.”
By that metric it is hard to dispute that Snowden has won. People can have various opinions on the surveillance state, but they can’t deny its existence. Ignorance is no longer a defense of inaction.
Snowden also responded to the charge that he did not have the authority to do what he did, that no one elected him to make these decisions and blow the whistle.
“That whole question — who elected you? — inverts the model,” he said. “They elected me. The overseers.” He named the chairmen of the Senate and House intelligence committees.
“Dianne Feinstein elected me when she asked softball questions” in committee hearings, he said. “Mike Rogers elected me when he kept these programs hidden. . . . The FISA court elected me when they decided to legislate from the bench on things that were far beyond the mandate of what that court was ever intended to do. The system failed comprehensively, and each level of oversight, each level of responsibility that should have addressed this, abdicated their responsibility.”
Undoubtedly Feinstein and Rogers are not serious about oversight, in fact, they come off more as spokespeople for the NSA in every interview they conduct. Though in their defense it’s rather clear that intelligence officials have no qualms about lying to Congress so maybe they believe some of the nonsense they spew.
Snowden also said he did attempt internal reform and whistle blowing but found it fruitless. This matches with most experts who know that whistle blowing within official channels is not possible at the NSA.
In terms of the many odd and baseless claims that Snowden “defected” to Russia and is some foreign agent, Snowden said “If I defected at all, I defected from the government to the public.”