Last night an interview with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden conducted by NBC News Anchor Brian Williams aired in prime time on NBC. In the hour long broadcast Snowden addressed questions ranging from the details of NSA programs being used against Americans, being trapped in Russia, and why he felt the duty to blow the whistle on the NSA’s controversial activities.
Even for those following the details of Snowden’s case from the beginning there was news such as NBC News’ confirmation of at least one email sent by Snowden to NSA legal officials noting his concerns that the programs he was exposed to were unconstitutional. That revelation bolsters the case that Snowden was a whistleblower who had attempted to go through proper channels before contacting journalists to blow the whistle.
Also discussed were the extensive technological capabilities of the NSA. Using a phone Williams had brought to the interview as an example, Snowden demonstrated how minor pieces of information gleaned from hacking the phone such as the searching for a sports score could reveal vast amounts of personal information about Williams and his “pattern of life.” Information that could be construed and used by government analysts in a variety of ways.
Besides Snowden’s work at the NSA and the agency’s wide-ranging technological powers, the interview delved into the ethics and efficacy of the post-9/11 security state – both whether total collection of information or “building a bigger haystack” really works and whether that system violates the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution and Americans’ privacy. Snowden argued affirmatively in both cases that the NSA’s surveillance system does not work – as evidenced by the Boston Marathon bombing – and that the NSA’s collection program violated the Fourth Amendment’s provision on prohibiting general warrants for search and seizure in that the NSA seizes personal information without specific warrants.
Whether or not the interview will effect Edward Snowden’s legal case with the US government is hard to say, but it certainly offered the wider American public a chance to see him up close and hear his side of the story.