The Guardian yesterday posted a second portion of its June 6 interview of Edward Snowden in Hong Kong, conducted by Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras. Part I was here (and the full transcript here). We have transcribed the second portion below, as a service to readers.
Glenn Greenwald: Have you given thought to what it is that the US government’s response to your conduct is, in terms of what they might say about you, how they might try to depict you?
Edward Snowden: I think the government’s going to launch an investigation, I think they’re going to say I’ve committed grave crimes, I’ve– you know, violated the Espionage Act. They’re going to say, I’ve aided our enemies in making them aware of these systems but that argument can be made against anybody who reveals information that points out mass surveillance systems, because fundamentally they apply equally to ourselves as they do to our enemies.
Greenwald: When you decided to enter this world did you do so with the intention of weaseling your way in and becoming a mole so you could one day undermine it with disclosures or what was your perspective and mindset about it at the time that you first sort of got into this whole realm?
Snowden: No, I joined the intelligence community when I was very young– sort of the government as a whole. I enlisted in the army shortly after the invasion of Iraq and I believed in the goodness of what we were doing, I believed in the nobility of our intentions to free oppressed people overseas. But over time, over the length of my career, as I watched the news and I increasingly was exposed to true information that had not been propagandized in the media that we were actually involved in misleading the public and misleading all publics not just the American public in order to create a certain mindset in the global consciousness and I was actually a victim of that. America is a fundamentally a good country; we have good people with good values who want to do the right thing, but the structures of power that exist are working to their own ends to extend their capability at the expense of the freedom of all publics.
Poitras: Can you talk about what you think some of the most important primary document are and what they reveal?
Snowden: The primary disclosures are the fact that the NSA doesn’t limit itself to foreign intelligence. It collects all communications that transit the United States There are literally no ingress or egress points anywhere in the continental United States where communications can enter or exit without being monitored and collected and analyzed.
The Verizon document speaks highly to this, because it literally lays out they’re using an authority that was intended to be used to seek warrants against individuals and they’re applying it to the whole of society by basically subverting a corporate partnership through major telecommuncations providers and they’re getting everyone’s calls, everyone’s call records and everyone’s internet traffic as well.
On top of that you have got Boundless Informant, which is sort of a global auditing system for the NSA’s intercept and collection system that lets us track how much– how much we’re collecting, where we’re collecting, by which authorities and so forth. The NSA lied about the existence of this tool to Congress and to specific congressmen in response to previous inquiries about their surveillance activities.
Beyond that we’ve got PRISM, which is a demonstration of how the US Government co-opts US corporate power to its own ends. Companies like Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft– they all get together with the NSA and provide the NSA direct access to the back ends of all of the systems you use to communicate, to store data, to put things in the cloud, and even to just send birthday wishes and keep a record of your life. And they give NSA direct access that they don’t need to oversee so they can’t be held liable for it. I think that’s a dangerous capability for anybody to have but particularly an organization that’s demonstrated time and time again that they’ll work to shield themselves from oversight.
Greenwald: Was there a specific point in time that you can point to when you crossed the line from contemplation to decision making and commitment to do this?
Snowden: I grew up with the understanding that the world I lived in was one where people enjoyed a sort of freedom to communicate with each other in privacy without it being monitored, without it being measured or analyzed or sort of judged by these shadowy figures or systems anytime they mentioned anything that travels across public lines.
I think a lot of people of my generation, anybody who grew up with the internet– that was their understanding. As we’ve seen the internet and government’s relation to the internet evolve over time, we’ve seen that sort of open debate, that free market of ideas, sort of lose its domain and be shrunk.
Greenwald: But what is it about that set of developments that makes them sufficiently menacing or threatening to you that you are willing to risk what you’ve risked in order to fight them?
Snowden: I don’t want to live in a world where everything that I say, everything I do, everyone I talk to, every expression of creativity or love or friendship is recorded. And that’s not something I’m willing to support, it’s not something I’m willing to build, and it’s not something I’m willing to live under. So I think anyone who opposes that sort of world has an obligation to act in the way they can. Now I’ve watched and waited and tried to do my job in the most policy-driven way I could, which is to wait and allow other people, you know– wait and allow our leadership, our figures, to sort of correct the excesses of government when we go too far. But as I’ve watched, I’ve seen that’s not occurring. In fact, we’re compounding the excesses of prior governments. And making it worse and more invasive, and no one is really standing to stop it.
Related: Yesterday the Washington Post published a column suggesting that Snowden had taken a job with NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton in order to expose secrets. Glenn Greenwald disputed that column here, and of course the interview above, released yesterday, also responds on that issue. Der Spiegel has published an email interview with Snowden, conducted by intelligence analyst Jacob Appelbaum at the behest of Poitras in May, when she was attempting to determine Snowden’s bona fides. And here is a Democracy Now interview with Greenwald.