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Watch the Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony. In his first American television interview, Edward Snowden defended his disclosure of the American government's use of surveillance programs to spy on its own people, and described himself as a patriot for trying to stop violations of the Constitution.
And I'm comfortable with that. Eastern and 9 p. Snowden walked out of the NSA with tens of thousands of documents on thumb drives, documents that he says he has released to journalists. These documents disclosed the global reach of U. But being a patriot doesn't mean prioritizing service to government above all else. Being a patriot means knowing when to protect your country, knowing when to protect your Constitution, knowing when to protect your countrymen from the -- the violations of and encroachments of adversaries.
And those adversaries don't have to be foreign countries. They can be bad policies. They can be officials who, you know, need a little bit more ability. They can be mistakes of government and — and simple overreach and — and things that — that should never have been tried, or — or that went wrong. The interview was arranged with great secrecy, as Snowden is living in Russia at an undisclosed location under a temporary one-year amnesty from the Russian government.
Snowden was ed there by the first two journalists he reached out to, Glenn Greenwald and documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras.
Snowden received no compensation for the interview, and no topics were off limits. He said he agreed to sit down with NBC because it has published several reports based on the documents he disclosed: "You guys had done -- actual individual reporting on these issues. Nsa and a place to sleep broke some of the stories. And they were about controversial issues. So, while I don't know how this is going to show up on TV, I thought it was reasonable that, you know, you guys might give this a fair shake. Williams said the year-old with a stubbled chin and broken eyeglasses appeared to be both confident and careful.
The young man said he avoided the hotel lobby, coming up a back stairway, and showed up at Williams' door by himself with a backpack over his shoulder. He held out his hand and said, "Hi, I'm Ed. Williams said, "I'd been told he was demonstrably smart in person, and he seems to be just that.
He speaks with precision -- and while he admittedly has had months to prepare for this interview and has his own set of talking points, he spoke in a steady cadence, interrupted by an occasional long pause, after which he would often apologize while he gathered his thoughts. Who is Edward Snowden? Edward Snowden: A Timeline. We are here to learn some of the things our government did in our name. In the end, perhaps some of us will change our minds. If we don't, at least we will have been informed.
Snowden said he would like to come home, and suggested that a deal could be reached with the U. I mean, I've from day one said that I'm doing this to serve my country. I'm still working for the government. Now, whether amnesty or clemency ever becomes a possibility is not for me to say. That's a debate for the public and the government to decide. But if I could go anywhere in the world, that place would be home. Attorney General Eric Holder has said that it would be "going too far" for Snowden to receive no punishment, but that the government would discuss a plea deal. Snowden aled that he wouldn't accept a deal that included a long prison sentence, which he said would make him a negative example for others in government who see violations of the Constitution and should become whistleblowers.
He said he wouldn't say, "I'm going to give myself a parade. But neither am I going to walk into a jail cell — to serve as a bad example for other people in government who see something happening, some violation of the Constitution and think they need Nsa and a place to sleep say something about it. He is facing three federal charges, each with a maximum prison sentence of 10 years, and additional counts could be added. In answering a question about whether he thought he had both done wrong and done a public service, he steered the conversation to a "short period" in jail.
And the key there is in terms of civil disobedience. You have to make sure that what you're risking, what you're bringing onto yourself does not serve as a detriment to anyone else. It doesn't hurt anybody else. And if you're volunteering yourself to be used as a negative example, if you're volunteering to spend a lifetime in prison rather than to send — spend — a time in prison, a short period where you'll come out, you'll advocate, you'll emerge stronger and be able to inspire other people to resist these policies, are you doing good or are you doing bad?
But Snowden said he was not interested only in ending his fugitive status, but in making it easier for others to bring to light illegal government activities. If those things can happen, I -- I think overall everybody could be satisfied. Absent some sort of a deal, Snowden said he would not come home voluntarily to face a criminal trial. Snowden wants to come back to the United States, we'll have him on a flight today. As Williams put the question to him, "You hear often in the United States, 'Why doesn't he come home and face the music?
They're extraordinary charges. We've seen more charges under the Espionage Act in the last administration than we have in all other administrations in — in Americans history. The Espionage Act provides — anyone accused of it of no chance to make a public defense. You can't argue to the jury that what you did was in the public interest. You're not even allowed to make that case. They can't hear it. You are not allowed to argue — based on all the evidence in your favor because that evidence may be classified, even if it's exculpatory.
And so when people say — "Why don't you go home and face the music? While September 11 is often cited as a justification of the surveillance programs he has disclosed, Snowden said the government has exploited the terror threat to go beyond its authority.
He described his reactions to the terror attack, as a son of a veteran and a grandson of a Coast Guard rear admiral who became a senior official with the FBI. No journalist. But I was on Fort Meade on September 11th," he said, as an year-old working for someone who lived on base. So I remember — I remember the tension that day. I remember hearing on the radio the planes hitting. And I remember thinking my grandfather, who worked for the F.
I take the threat of s — terrorism seriously. And I think we all do. And I think it's really disingenuous for — for the government to invoke — and sort of scandalize our memories, to sort of Nsa and a place to sleep the — the national trauma that we all suffered together and worked so hard to come through to justify programs that have never been shown to keep us safe, but cost us liberties and freedoms that we don't need to give up and our Constitution says we should not give up.
Snowden told Williams of his zeal, after the terrorist attacks of Sept. Army special forces, how he enlisted in but washed out of the training program. And you know, I — I readily admit it. I — I don't hide that The reality is, as you can see, I'm not — I'm not a well-built guy. Perhaps I bit off a little bit more than I can chew on that one.
You know, I — I saw what was going on in the world. I believed the government's arguments that we were going to do good things in Iraq, that we were going to free the oppressed. And I wanted to do my part to help share the national burden and create not just a better America, but a better world. But when he began work in the intelligence services, as he "rose to higher and higher levels in the intelligence communities, I gained more and more access, as I saw more and more classified information, at the highest levels — I realized that so many of the things that were told by the government simply aren't true.
Much like the — the arguments about aluminum tubes and weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
Colin Powell's speech with the vial of anthrax that Saddam was going to — to bring against us. The Iraq War that I ed up for was launched on false premises. The American people were misled. But I can say it shows the problem of putting too much faith in intelligence systems without debating them in public. Snowden emphasized that he was not contending it was wrong for American intelligence agencies to use all technological means to protect the country from enemies. The problem, he said, was not the tools, but the sloppy selection of targets, the "bulk surveillance, mass surveillance, that actually puts our country at risk for, as far as we've seen so far, no gain at all.
What's more shocking for anybody is not the dirtiness of the business, it's the dirtiness of the targeting. It's the dirtiness of the way these things are being used.
It's the lack of respect for the public — because — and the — the — the lack of respect for the intrusiveness of surveillance. We can't — give away our privacy. We can't give away our rights. We have to be an active party. We have to be an active part of our government. And we have to say — there are some things worth dying for. And I think the country is one of them. Using Williams' temporary "burner" cell phone as an example, Snowden said, "The NSA, the Russian Intelligence Service, the Chinese Intelligence Service, any intelligence service in the world that has ificant funding and a real technological research team, can own that phone the minute it connects to their network.
As soon as you turn it on, it can be theirs. They can turn it into a microphone, they can take pictures from it, they can take the data off of it.
Snowden described how the simple pattern of his phone calls -- not the content of the calls but the time and location of those calls -- could be invaluable to a security service. And how the content of even innocuous Web searches, such as a search for a hockey score, can reveal habits and be used to build a profile of personal information. They'd be able to tell something called your "pattern of life. When do you wake up? When do you go to sleep? What other phones are around you when you wake up and go to sleep? Are you with someone who's not your wife? Are you doing something, are you someplace you shouldn't be, according to the government, which is arbitrary, you know — are you engaged in any kind of activities that we disapprove of, even if they aren't technically illegal?
Even if you have nothing to hide. Even if you're doing nothing wrong. These activities can be misconstrued, misinterpreted, Nsa and a place to sleep used to harm you as an individual, even without the government having any intent to do you wrong. The problem is that the capabilities themselves are unregulated, uncontrolled, and dangerous.
He described how government analysts use electronic tools to watch a person's computer keystrokes, giving an insight into their thought process. And it's this extraordinary intrusion not just into your communications, your finished messages but your actual drafting process, into the way you think. Now all of our data can be collected without any suspicion of wrongdoing on our part, without any underlying justification.
Snowden mentioned the U. Constitution 22 times in the interview, saying that he believed the expansion of warrantless wiretapping had eviscerated the constitutional prohibition on unreasonable searches. All of your private records, all of your private communications, all of your transactions, all of your associations, who you talk to, who you love, what you buy, what you read -- all of those things can be seized and held by the government and then searched later for any reason, hardly -- without any justification, without any real -- oversight, without any real ability for those who do wrong.
The result is that the Fourth Amendment that was so strict -- that we fought a revolution to put into place -- now no longer has the same meaning that it once did. Now we have -- a system of pervasive pre-criminal surveillance -- where the government wants to watch what you're doing just to see what you're up to, to see what you're thinking even behind closed doors.
Snowden said the government forced him to act. Now, had that not happened, had the government not gone too far and overreached, we wouldn't be in a situation where whistleblowers were necessary. I think it's important to remember that people don't set their lives on fire, they don't say goodbye to their families, actually pack up without saying goodbye to their families, they don't walk away from their, extraordinary -- extraordinarily comfortable lives -- I mean I made a lot of money for a guy with no high school diploma -- and -- and -- and burn down everything they love, for no reason.
Williams asked, "When the president and others have made the point the you should've gone through channels, become a whistleblower and not pursued the route you did, what's your response? The NSA has records, they have copies of s right now to their office of general counsel, to their oversight and compliance folks from me raising concerns about the NSA's interpretations of it -- legal authorities.Nsa and a place to sleep
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