Since exposing the extent of mass, unchecked surveillance conducted by the NSA and its allies, Snowden has largely steered clear of interviews to counter any claims that his goals were personal, or related to vanity. He’s also made sure to not make a cent off the leaks – only he knows how many movie deals he’s turned down. But he clearly feels the public debate has matured enough – and that he’s safe enough – to speak to the Washington Post about how the steady drip of leaks controlled the US news cycle, and made surveillance a major topic in US debates.
Even in this extensive interview, he’s careful to make sure the conversation stays on topic, and not drift into personal matters. In the interview, he declares victory, saying the main task of introducing the facts into the public sphere and letting them make up their own minds was completed long ago. That much is undeniable, and what’s been remarkable to see is the redrawing of lines in US politics – surveillance, it seems, is not an issue that follows the normal Red vs Blue rules. With Democrats keen to back the Obama administration, and many Libertarians in the Republican ranks, it can be hard to predict who thinks Snowden is a traitor, and who thinks he’s a national hero.
“It wasn’t that they put it on me as an individual — that I’m uniquely qualified, an angel descending from the heavens — as that they put it on someone, somewhere,” he said. “You have the capability, and you realize every other [person] sitting around the table has the same capability but they don’t do it. So somebody has to be the first.”
It’s an issue that wholly escaped political debate in Australia, not even close to being an election issue. But the same can’t be said for the US – or its allies, Germany and Brazil, which haven’t taken kindly to being spied upon, be that as a whole or in relation to specific politicians, and have considered actions to remedy the amount of communications that go through the US before reaching the outside world.
From the layout of PRISM, to the pressure and dealings with top tech companies, to the covert non-regulation of FISA, to improper use of the system like LOVEINT, the key to controlling the fast-paced, formulaic news cycle was the steady release of information. It’s something that had to be agreed upon beforehand with journalists like Glenn Greenwalk and Laura Poitras, as Snowden himself, assisted by Wikileaks’ Sarah Harrison, formulated an escape from Hong Kong that would ultimately result in temporary asylum in Russia.
It’s very interesting to finally here things from the horse’s mouth, instead of through a select journalist. You can read the full interview here.