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<nettime> Lena SundstrÃm: Five hours with Edward Snowden
patrice on Tue, 10 Nov 2015 16:49:18 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Lena SundstrÃm: Five hours with Edward Snowden

Could be the longest Snowden interview till now. Appeared in the 7 
november 2015 w/e edition of the Swedish quality newspaper Dagens 
Nyheter .

(Apologies for sloppy editing, c+p text is here more for the records. 
Pls revert to the url, for great pictures, proper insert boxes, and 
working links!)

original to: http://fokus.dn.se/edward-snowden-english/

DN meets Edward Snowden:
Five hours with Edward Snowden
6 november, 2015

Suddenly he opens the door. DNâs Lena SundstrÃm and Lotta HÃrdelin had a 
unique meeting with the whistleblower who has fans all over the world 
but risks lifetime imprisonment in the home country he once tried to 

     Text Lena SundstrÃm
     Foto Lotta HÃrdelin

Talking to room service, Edward Snowden covers the mouth piece of the 
phone and shouts across the room.

â How would you like your steak?

â Medium rare, I answer.

â And to drink?

â Water.

â Still or sparkling?


â Wait.

He laughs.

â Thereâs actually more. Vegetables or mashed potatoes?

â Vegetables.

The choice of two left shoes of the former Soviet Union is, since 
decades, history in Russia. On my way here, I passed Cyrillic letters 
that were perfectly readable, even without any knowledge of Russian. 
Brands like McDonaldâs, Starbucks, World Class Gym, Michael Kors and 
United Colors of Benetton are like a universal code language, making 
everything understandable, whether the signs are in Moscow, Stockholm, 
San Francisco or Bangkok. If you think you can measure totalitarian 
tendencies, freedom of speech and rule of law in a country, by the 
standard of the cars, the number of restaurants or Stella McCartneyâs 
latest spring collection, youâre fooling yourself.

Poverty shows. Democratic deficit doesnât.

I watch the traffic thickening through my hotel room window; if this is 
possible in a city, where the traffic constantly is so congested that 
youâre faster off walking.
Facts. Edward Joseph Snowden
Born: June 21, 1983 (32 years old)
Profession: Director at Freedom of the Press Foundation
Residing in: Russia and on the internet
Twitter handle:  {AT} Snowden, with 1.51 million followers.
Family: Lon Snowden and Elizabeth Snowden, older sister Jessica.
Grew up in: Crofton, Maryland, roughly 20 kilometers from the NSA 
headquarters in Fort Meade.
Girlfriend: Lindsay Mills.

Professional background:
2004: US Special Forces, recruit program, Fort Brenning, Georgia.
2006: CIA
2007-2009: Foreign posting in Geneva for the CIA.
2009-2012: Dell, Japan/NSA, Maryland, USA
2012: Hawaii, Dell, placed at NSA Kunia regional SIGINT operation 
2013: Booz Allen Hamilton, Hawaii
2013: Residing in Russia. Works for Freedom of the Press Foundation.

Not too long ago, I was sitting with the photographer, Lotta HÃrdelin, 
at our established meeting point, where our contact would pick us up, 
and take us further, wondering if something was wrong.

For months, I had emailed encrypted messages back and forth with 
contacts and lawyers.

We finally got a date and a message telling us to go to Moscow, where 
further instructions would follow.

Now weâre here, in a dim Russian hotel lobby. Thereâs no plan B and 
everything feels uncertain and unpredictable. The security measures, 
concern and need for total control of the past weeks have now been 
reduced to waiting and quiet powerlessness in a cream-colored armchair.

In the morning, our contact told us to be at a hotel, pointed out to us 
on a big Moscow map at 12:45 PM. We were told to quietly signal our 

Now we fear that we agreed to it too fast.

â Are you sure this is the spot he pointed out?

12:45 turns into 1:00 that turns into 1:25.

What if weâre at the wrong place?

After a while, we pick up the map and start looking for buildings and 
hotels that could be mixed up with the place weâre at. We left our cell 
phones at our hotel, just as instructed, as did our contact. Neither of 
us can reach the other if something has gone wrong, and thereâs no plan 

The lobby is full of Russian military. Men boasting a low center of 
gravity step in and out of the lifts, ranks showing on their chests and 
in their eyes.

After a while, we order tea and croissants to try to blend in with the 
crowd. Everywhere we believe we see mysterious hotel staff and guests 
who donât blend in. As if weâve ended up in a Roy Andersson movie where 
you donât know if the extras are actors or the actors are extras.

A woman is pointing a video camera in our direction. A man standing by a 
pillar is talking on his cell phone for a suspiciously long time.

We laugh, telling each other weâre being paranoid.

Then our contact finally appears.

The contrast when standing outside the actual meeting point surprises 
me. Everything suddenly makes complete sense. Any concern that the 
interview would be cancelled; that something would happen â broken 
bones, vomiting disease, visa problems â seems to have vanished.

Edward Snowden opens the door. I sit down on the couch. In a strange 
kind of way, this feels like a place you could drop by any Wednesday to 

Reality is of course less simple.

Ever since Edward Snowden in June 2013 went public as the whistleblower 
behind the leaked classified documents that revealed the US mass 
surveillance of its own citizens, he has been one of the worldâs most 
hunted men. Back in the US he risks a lifelong sentence. Russia, which 
only should have been a stopover on his way to Cuba, is so far the only 
country that has granted him asylum. This made the country the only safe 
place in the world for him.

Two and a half years have passed. Edward Snowden â who has become a 
symbol of freedom of speech, an icon, a face without a body talking on 
giant screens through links â greets us with a disarming smile and a 
notebook in his hand.

He immediately asks what we want to eat. And looks so relaxed in his 
black shirt and three-piece suit that he makes it feel like something he 
would go jogging in. If he felt like it.

How are you doing?

He smiles.

â Itâs hard for me to talk about what itâs like, because anything I say 
is going to be used by US critics. If I say good things about Russia, 
you know, like âitâs not hellâ, then theyâll be like âhe fell in love 
with the Kremlinâ or something like that. If I say something terrible, 
then itâs the same thing. Then theyâll go âoh, he hates it in Russia, 
you know heâs miserable.â

â So I try not to talk about it in general.

I say that Iâve heard that he lives like an indoor cat in Russia.

On the other hand, you can of course live like an indoor cat in Hawaii 
as well, where you used to live. How much has your life changed?

â The indoor cat thing is voluntary, thatâs the way Iâve always lived. 
In Hawaii, occasionally, my girlfriend would drag me out of the house, 
into the beautiful paradise that it was. But generally, I spend most of 
my time in my head or on the internet. Iâm not the type of person whoâs 
always going out to go somewhere. Instead Iâd rather have a conversation 
or think or plan or design. People have different personalities and 
thatâs the sort of life I lived. Itâs actually extraordinaryâ because of 
my lifestyle, because of my involvement on the internet Iâm working more 
now, than Iâve ever done before. And I think I have a greater impact.

â Yes of course I lost things, yes I paid a price: I canât go home.
Listen (26 sec)

What do you miss the most?

â My family. Of course. As it is for everybody. But Iâm very comfortable 
with the choices Iâve made. I can still see my family when they come 
here to visit. I can still communicate with anyone anywhere. I regularly 
speak at the most prestigious universities in the United States for 
students who really care about these issues.
Listen (01:04 min)

â It used to be, when people were pressed into exile, theyâd lose their 
connections, theyâd lose their significance, theyâd lose their influence 
in the political debate.Thatâs why exile, as a strategy of response to 
political dissent, always has been so popular, whether it was the Soviet 
Union deporting authors they didnât like or American dissidents going to 
Cuba. But technology is changing that. Exile as, a strategy, is 
beginning to fail.

â This is something thatâs encouraging and something that really guides 
my future work. How can I help activists and dissidents who have 
something to say, something to contribute to the direction of their 
societies? To surmount these walls of opposition and say it doesnât 
matter where I am, this voice will be heard. And I think there is 
something extraordinarily powerful in that, thatâs really started to 
threaten governments.

On September 29th this year, he posted his first tweet: âCan you hear me 
now?âAnd people could. Edward Snowden reached 1.5 million followers in 
no time. He only follows one himself â the NSAâs official account. His 
grim humor shines through in many of his tweets.

One of the first ones reads âThanks for the welcome. And now weâve got 
water on Mars! Do you think they check passports at the border? Asking 
for a friend.â When the former NSA and CIA Director, Michael Hayden, 
implied that Snowden would be killed in Moscow, Snowden wrote âHe used 
to be more funâ and posted a picture of the two of them smiling 

At the same time, he has a clear passion stretching beyond mass 
surveillance, to issues of democracy on a more general level. After the 
attack in Kunduz in October, when the US bombed a hospital in 
Afghanistan, he made continuous comments â relaying information that 
âNot a single member of our staff reported any fighting inside the 
hospital compound prior to the US airstrikeâ, tweeting screenshots 
quoting the Geneva Convention and stating the need for an independent 

Edward Snowden says that the most important aspect of social media is 
that you can get things out directly.

â You can take the story and simply quote the relevant part, simply 
signaling if the media didnât headline it appropriately or if someone 
misleads the public intentionally for a political advantage. You can get 
the facts out there. I think that is actually valuable.

Do you live on American or Russian time here in Moscow?

â Two nights ago, I didnât go to bed until 4:30 in the morning. A couple 
of days before that, I went to bed at like 9:30 in the morning. Iâve 
been really busy these last couple of months, working with organizations 
like the ACLU, the American Civil Liberties Union. Almost everything I 
do, all my associations, all my work is in English, which holds me back 
from trying to learn Russian. And when theyâre eight hours off, or ten 
hours off, itâs hard. When they want you to speak at 9PM US Eastern 
standard time, thatâs 4AM in Russia. But Iâm a night owl in general. I 
like the night, itâs quiet, thereâs not that much traffic. Itâs easier 
to live.

Edward Snowdenâs first tweet alluded to a well-known commercial for the 
US telecom giant Verizon, where a man in different environments, a cell 
phone to his ear, is asking if he can be heard. The first Snowden story, 
published in June 2013, showed that the NSA had access to all of 
Verizonâs data on their customers.

Later, people have merged the Verizon commercial with another well-known 
commercial on the internet. The Verizon guy asking: âCan you hear me 
now?â And Obama answering: âYes we can.â

Barack Obama 2007.

Edward Snowden was once one of those who believed in Barack Obamaâs 
promises of change. Obama ran for president promising âthe most 
transparent administration in historyâ. He celebrated whistleblowers as 
ânobleâ and âcourageousâ, declaring that there would be no more spying 
on âAmerican citizens whoâre not suspected of a crime, no more tracking 
of citizens who do no more than protest a misguided war, no more 
ignoring the law when itâs inconvenientâ. Supported by the Espionage 
Act, he has since chased leaks with newfound strength, and during the 
Obama administration a total of eight people have been prosecuted â i.e. 
far more than any other administration in the history of the United 

Do you get to vote?

Edward Snowden laughs.

â Well weâll find out. Iâll definitely be trying!

Itâs about the symbolic value, he explains.

â Iâll send them my vote by mail. Itâs not like it will count in a 
meaningful way because such a small portion of the votes come by mail. 
But thatâs not the point; the point is the expression of it.

Have you decided who you will vote for?

â No, not yet.

Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump?

â Haha. If â No. I shouldnât say that, itâs too inflammatory.

CNN debate, october 13 2015.

I ask if he saw the Democratic presidential candidate debate the other 
night. Senator Bernie Sanders defended Edward Snowden, saying he had 
played an important role in spreading knowledge to the American people. 
Hilary Clinton, however, claimed he had violated American law and that 
he had stolen important information that had âfallen into the wrong 

Thatâs also what Edward Snowdenâs critics point out. That the documents 
might have ended up with the Russian or the Chinese, and that he should 
come home to the US and be brought to justice for what heâs done, rather 
than live in a country like Russia, becoming dependent on Putin. That he 
should have taken the fight at home, instead of running away.
Facts. The Snowden documents: 5 dates

June 5, 2013: The first documents are published in British The Guardian. 
The following day Washington Post publishes more material. A whole world 
is wondering who the leak is.

June 9, 2013: Edward Snowden goes public. He says he does so to protect 
his former colleagues, who risk being suspected.

June 23, 2013: Snowden leaves Hong Kong to fly to Havana, Cuba. He gets 
stuck during a stopover in Moscow and seeks asylum in 22 countries â 
only one grants him asylum: Russia.

December 5, 2013: Swedish television program âUppdrag Granskningâ use 
the Snowden documents to reveal that the Swedish FRA is spying on 
Russian leaders and sharing their material with the American 
Intelligence Authorities.

October 29, 2015: The EU parliament urges the EU countries to give 
Edward Snowden protection as a âdefender of human rightsâ.

About the Prism scandal:

     The documents that Edward Snowden leaked showed that the NSA had 
access to communication from people all over the world through nine 
Internet firms, using the signal intelligence software PRISM.
     PRISM does not deal with metadata, but with content, like photos and 
videos, voices and files in cloud services..
     Between 2007 and 2012 a number of companies were forced to join 
PRISM: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, Youtube, Skype, AOL 
and Apple.

Edward Snowden himself has said he knows exactly how many documents he 
was carrying when he flew from Hong Kong to Moscow: Zero. To avoid any 
risk, he had already handed over all the material to the journalists who 
published the revelations.

â I did see the debate live. It was actually extraordinarily 
encouraging. In 2013, they were calling for me to be hanged. They were 
using the word âtraitorâ and things like âblood on your handsâ. Nobody 
on the stage, as far as I know, used the word traitor now. In just two 
years, thatâs an extraordinary change.

He says that it took 30 years for that to happen to Daniel Ellsberg, one 
of the most famous whistleblowers of all times, who leaked secret 
documents about the Vietnam War in the 1970s.

Barack Obama 2013.

Following Snowdenâs revelations, President Barack Obama has welcomed the 
debate on surveillance, but has also said that the publications of the 
documents have âbeen damaging to the United States and our intelligence 
capabilities, there were ways for us to have this conversation without 
that damage.â In the Democratic presidential candidate debate, Hillary 
Clinton expressed herself in the same way, about an American system with 
a tradition of protecting whistleblowers.

â The American tradition in regard to whistleblowers is to try to bury 
them, Edward Snowden says.

â But Hillary Clinton was roundly shamed for that in the press. They 
said, legally sheâs wrong, historically sheâs wrong and sheâs wrong even 
rhetorically, because everybody knows that this isnât the case.

Whistleblowers like Edward Snowden, Daniel Ellsberg and Chelsea Manning 
â who supplied WikiLeaks with secret documents â all bear witness to 
this. But there are more.
Read more
PBS interviews Thomas Drake in 2013.

In 2007, FBI agents carried out so-called morning raids at the homes of 
people who worked or had worked at the NSA, and had tried to blow the 
whistle on a mass surveillance program they felt had gotten out of 
control. One man was dragged out of the shower in his home, a gun to his 
head, in front of his family. Another man opened his door and soon had 
the house full of black-clad agents in Kevlar vests searching his home 
until late at night. The home of Thomas Drake, a senior executive at the 
NSA, was searched, his passport was cancelled and he lived under the 
threat of 35 years imprisonment for four years, prosecuted under the 
Espionage Act. He lost his job, his pension and spent everything he 
owned on his defense lawyer. Today he works at an Apple store in 
Maryland and has been able to establish that the only person, who was 
investigated and prosecuted, after trying to talk to his superiors about 
the mass surveillance, was himself.
Read more
The fourth amendment of the American Constitution.

These were people who had dedicated their lives to the US Government. 
Many of them had worked with intelligence for the NSA for over 30 years. 
What they protested against was that the US had monitored its own 
citizens, despite the fact that the US Constitution clearly states that 
all Americans have the right âto be secure in their persons, houses, 
papers, and effects, against unreasonable searchesâ.

Also people outside the NSA tried to talk about what was going on. A 
lawyer at the Department of Justice one day sneaked out at lunch, to 
call a New York Times reporter from a pay phone in the subway. After a 
phone call from the FBI, he resigned.

A woman at the Intelligence Committee of the House of Representatives 
had her house raided by the FBI at six oâclock in the morning, because 
sheâd asked questions about the program.

The recurring problem: there were no documents, there was no evidence.

Edward Snowden has previously talked about the importance of Thomas 
Drake, senior executive at the NSA.

Youâve said that if it hadnât been for Thomas Drakeâ

â âthere couldnât be an Edward Snowden. He followed every rule when he 
tried to raise the alarm. We see this in game theory, in sociological 
studies. Basically, each time you play a round of a game, people learn a 
little bit about it. They change their strategy and respond to it, so 
the way people play round ten is very different from round one.

And you learned from Drakeâ

â And even from Manning. I learned a lot from how the government 
responded. What happens when youâre required to report violations of a 
law to those who ordered those violations of the law?

Was it the mass surveillance or the lies about it that upset you the 

James Clapper 2013.

â In early 2013, when I still had the chance to change my mind, I saw 
James Clapper (Director of National Intelligence) raise his hand and 
swear to tell the truth: âDoes the NSA collect any type of data at all 
on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?â âNo sir.â âIt does 
not?â âNot wittingly.â

â Telling a lie under those circumstances is a felony.

The year before, Congress had questioned NSA Director Keith Alexander. 
His answers were the same. Does the NSA routinely intercept American 
citizensâ emails? No. Does the NSA intercept Americansâ cell phone 
conversations? No. Google searches? No. Text messages? No. Amazon.com 
orders? No. Bank records? No.

Keith Alexander 2012.

Edward Snowden not only knew they were lying, but also that the scope 
was much larger than anyone could imagine. During a 30 day period, the 
NSA intercepted more than three billion individual conversations just 
from American communication systems. 97 billion emails and 124 billion 
phone calls worldwide, in just one monthâs time.

At his own desk, Edward Snowden could listen in on anyone â ordinary 
people, someoneâs accountant, a federal judge â as long as he had a 
private email address.

â Being a whistleblower is not about who you are; itâs about what youâve 
seen. Whistleblowers are elected by circumstance, anybody can do it. 
Itâs about people who watch, who think, and who eventually respond. And 
it takes a number of years. When I first saw things, I really didnât 
believe them. I grew up in the shadow of the NSA, my mother worked for 
the federal government, my father and my grandfather worked for the 
military. I couldnât believe the government would lie to us. But 
eventually the evidence becomes so great that you canât ignore it.

â When I was at the NSA, talking to my peers, we were seeing the Thomas 
Drake case in the media, andâ

You talked about it at work?

â Yeah, you know, âit sucks to be that guyâ. When eventually I wanted to 
do something about it â I knew these programs were wrong and I was 
thinking about coming forward â I wanted to make sure I wasnât a crazy 
person. So I showed my co-workers and my supervisors documents for 
example stating that we were intercepting more about Americans in the 
United States than we were about Russians in Russia â and said that this 
doesnât make sense.

And you felt safe talking about it at work?

â Yeah, because everybody has their shoptalks. Itâs not like anybody at 
the NSA is a villain. No oneâs sitting there thinking âhow can I destroy 
democracy?â Theyâre good people doing bad things for what they believe 
is a good reason. They think the end justifies the means.

So there isnât a silent culture?

â There is and thereâs not. When you talk to your co-workers you talk to 
them in confidence, in trust. Youâre alone with them. You say: âWhat do 
you think about this? Do you think this is right? This is crazy.â But 
what you see is constrained. You donât know whatâs going on in the 
office next to yours. Itâs an unlabelled office. Itâs got letters and 
numbers on it. And you donât think about how your piece fits into the 
larger picture.

â By virtue of my position I had a clearance which was called PRIVAC â 
privileged access â that meant that I could see across all these 
boundaries. I could see the whole picture. I could see the whole 
picture. Most people couldnât. So when I talked to them about that, they 
were concerned, but at the same time they would immediately go: âDonât 
tell anybody about this. You know what happens to guys like that. You 
say something about this and theyâre going to destroy you.â
Read more
âThe Pentagon Papersâ leaked by Daniel Ellsberg in 1971.

When Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the âPentagon Papersâ in 1971, decided 
to become a whistleblower, he secretly had to smuggle 7,000 pages of 
classified material out of his office. Night after night, he copied page 
after page on a Xerox machine which could only, slowly, manage one page 
at a time. To save time, Ellsberg stopped folding down the lid after a 
while, wondering whether he would go blind or to prison first.

Edward Snowden didnât need to photocopy his documents. Certain things 
have become easier over the years, while other things are just as hard. 
The risk of being caught. And the following demonizing campaigns.

Daniel Ellsberg was so worried his children would hate him; he felt he 
had to try to explain why he did what he was doing.

Edward Snowden laughs, nodding.

â Yeah, I think his son actually helped him Xerox. But, to the best of 
my knowledge, you canât charge a little child of espionage.

He says it would have been different if heâd told his girlfriend or his 
family. That would have made them accomplices. So all he did was leave a 
note in the house on Elue Street in Hawaii, where he lived with his 
girlfriend, saying he would be away for work.

â Thatâs the problem; that you canât tell them. I had everything set up 
in such a way that my family could cut ties with me and condemn me if 
things went poorly. And I was okay with that; I was prepared to accept 

Blowing the whistle was something he did for his own sake, he says. Heâs 
never seen it as a self-sacrificing act.

â I simply saw something and I realized that you have to believe in 
something. And if you believe in something, you have to be able to stand 
for it. I donât like the ideology of self-sacrifice. If a society is 
asking people to put themselves on fire, itâs very soon going to find 
itself without volunteers. I donât believe in altruism. That can be a 
good thing in some cases, but not in the extreme cases. This was 
something that made me feel good, that I could be proud of.
Listen (8 sec)
All your life.

â Yes, even if life would be cut short. I reject that kind of labelling 
because it leads to a âwaiting for Supermanâ way of thinking. People go 
âwe need a hero but itâs not meâ and âthese people did great things, but 
God I wish someone would do something about thatâ.

     My girlfriend actually understood, because she said âThatâs why I 
fell in love with youâ. But she was certainly upset with me. For good 

On May 20, 2013, he packed four laptops and such a large number of 
classified documents that no one still knows exactly how many. The only 
thing we can be sure of, is that the British authoritiesâ guess was too 
low when they, after the revelations, went to The Guardian saying: âWe 
are pretty aware of what you have gotâ We believe you have about 30 to 
40 documents. We are worried about their securityâ.

Not even the NSA currently knows how many documents weâre talking about. 
Estimates claim that Edward Snowden had access to a total of 1.7 million 
documents and that he gave 50,000 to 200,000 documents to the 
journalists, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras.

Experiences from previous whistleblowers had taught him that he needed 
documents to prove his claims, so that no one would dismiss them as 
lies. Heâd also come to some other important insights:

Heâd have to flee the country prior to the publications.

Heâd have to be transparent in his operations, so that it would be clear 
that he was acting on his own and that he wasnât funded by any foreign 

Heâd not publish anything on his own, but leave it to journalists to do 
the selection.

Heâd choose journalists who had demonstrated that they would not allow 
themselves to be silenced by the White House.

Heâd proactively make his name public, in order for his co-workers not 
to become subject to suspicion.

Laura Poitras was a journalist and an Academy Award and Emmy nominated 
documentary filmmaker who, like Thomas Drake, had experienced the 
totalitarian methods that can be accommodated in a democracy.

After her documentary on the war in Iraq âMy country, my countryâ from 
2006, she was constantly harassed. She was stopped more than 40 times, 
when returning to the US after travelling abroad. Each time they held 
her, often three or four hours, and interrogated her about who sheâd met 
and where sheâd been. Her computer, camera and cell phone were 
confiscated and not returned for weeks. They copied her credit card and 
receipts at several of the occasions. They even took her reporter 

Poitras developed her own methods. She stopped travelling with 
electronic devices. She became an encryption expert. And she avoided 
talking on the phone about work related matters.

After sheâd been detained and threatened with handcuffs at Newark 
Airport, she contacted the journalist Glenn Greenwald, who wrote an 
article about her in April 2012.

For Edward Snowden, she and Glenn Greenwald were the perfect choices.

Laura Poitras, who had eventually moved to Berlin to protect her 
material. Glenn Greenwald, a former lawyer, who now was a journalist 
living in Rio de Janeiro, and writing for The Guardian.

The problem was that Glenn Greenwald didnât have an encryption program, 
nor did he succeed in installing one. The months passed. Edward Snowden 
kept emailing him under the code name âCincinnatusâ.

You never thought of giving up?

â The biggest problem for me was to get him to take me seriously. I 
donât blame him. I mean, if some random person on the internet is like 
âHey, I got something you need to see, random journalist. Itâs about 
government mass surveillance whatever, theyâre just going to go, 
âAhâman, hereâs another person thinking aliens are beaming signals 
through peopleâs teeth.â

He smiles, saying that it didnât bother him particularly. Instead, he 
kept sending encrypting instructions. For months.

â Trying to get Glenn Greenwald to do it was a little bit like trying to 
teach a cat how to dance. But I can understand that. The problem is the 
language they use in the encryption programs, to teach it to people. 
They talk about public keys and asymmetric keys and nobody knows what 
the hell that means. But Iâve always enjoyed the process of teaching. 
When I was young, I wanted to do a lot of things, and teaching was one 
of them.
Read more
More information and trailer of the documentary âCitizenfourâ.

The documentary âCitizenfourâ shows Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald 
meeting Edward Snowden in Hong Kong for the first time. Their surprise 
when the source turns out to be a 29 year old in a t-shirt and jeans, 
instead of the senior man in a suit they were expecting. For Ewen 
MacAskill, who was sent from The Guardian to assess the credibility of 
the source, all the alarm bells went off, when he met Edward Snowden. A 
guy the same age as his own kids was saying heâd worked for the CIA in 
Geneva and for the NSA in Japan and in Hawaii. When he said that he had 
served in the Special Forces and broken both his legs, Ewen MacAskill 
felt that it was overwhelming. At the same time, he had documents 
proving everything. And whatever they asked him, he gave them long, 
extensive and detailed answers. Eventually, MacAskill was convinced and 
sent the agreed green light back home to The Guardian:

âThe Guinness is good.â

You seemed very calm in the midst of all this. You even went to bed at 
half past ten every night and seemed to sleep like a child.
Listen (58 sec)

â Yeah, itâs one of those things. I mean, itâs really weird, I donât 
actually remember a lot from that period. I was so focused â everybody 
was so focused â I was in a state where I was functioning, working, 
being very lucid. But when I watched âCitizenfourâ it was almost like 
news to me, because it wasnât in my memory as a lived experience, 
because I was so focused on information transmission. It was like, this 
slide showsâ means thisâ explains thisâ None of us knew when the door 
would be kicked in. It was all very professional, hyper professional.

So when you seemed calm, it was simply because you werenât there.

â I actually think thatâs a stress response for me. Iâm not very 
emotional; I donât get very angry, I donât get very sad, I donât get 
very happy. Iâm very mellow and that goes for a lot of computer people. 
This kind of stereotype about this little autistic computer guy, whoâ
Listen (01:26 min)

âwho looks at your shoes instead of his own, if heâs an extrovertâ

â Haha. Yeah, right, right, right. Iâm not like that. I have a very 
rewarding relationship that has been going on for a long time. But every 
girlfriend Iâve had, every time weâre in an argument or something, they 
say âyouâre an emotionless robotâ. Because they would be upset and Iâd 
be thinking logically, âwhatâs the problem?â, âwhat can I do to make her 
feel betterâ and âoh no, donât cry!â As an engineer, my whole 
professional life has been about finding the problem and fixing it. But 
when it comes to relationships, people arenât machines or computersâ

I laugh. Saying he canât be a hopeless case, knowing that he made his 
girlfriend come all this way. To Russia.

He smiles.


He pauses.

â That was kind of amazingâ That she doesnât hate me forever, because 
she didnât know. She couldnât know.

Was she mad?

â Actually she understood, because she said âThatâs why I fell in love 
with youâ. But she was certainly upset with me. For good reasons.

When you first wrote to Laura Poitras, you wrote that you already knew 
how this would end for you.

â I was wrong. When I wrote that, I had an entirely other future in 
mind. I never expected to make it out of Hawaii. I thought Iâd be 
arrested immediately. The idea that a single person, acting alone, could 
actually get the truth out from the NSA and share it with the press, for 
people to listen, was extraordinary. Iâve never been so glad to be so 

Why Russia?

â I didnât choose Russia. They chose Russia.

Have you thought about it being a deliberate choice on the part of the 

â Yes, I have. I mean, they said they were afraid that I would start 
working for the Russians, which is ridiculous for a number of reasonsâ

And so you got stuck in Russia when they cancelled your passport?

â Right. Shouldnât they do their damndest to make sure Iâm out of that 
country? But instead, despite the fact that I applied for asylum in 21 
different countries across the world, the largest portion in Western 
Europe, the US Government made phone calls to every one of these 
countries, saying: âDONâT do itâ.

President Vladimir Putin has compared Snowden to an âunwanted Christmas 
presentâ but Russia finally granted him asylum and on August 1st, 2013 
Edward Snowden could leave the airport.

Moscowâs Sheremetyevo Airport was initially just meant to be a stopover 
on his way to Cuba. Reporters from all over the world had already bought 
tickets for the Aeroflot flight SU150 to Havana, because there were 
rumors that Edward Snowden had a ticket for row 17 on that plane. A 
correspondent from the Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat drew the 
winning ticket, managing to book seat 17 F, but minutes before 
departure, it became clear to the reporters that they would be flying to 
Cuba alone, without Snowden. An AP reporter tweeted a picture of the 
empty seat with the caption âHe ainât hereâ. Some Russian journalists 
tried looking at it from a positive side, shouting âchampagne trip, 
champagne tripâ. Whereupon cabin crew drily informed that the twelve 
hour flight to Cuba was a non-alcoholic flight.

The Finnish correspondent afterwards said that he had watched âThe 
Muppetsâ during the entire flight, which had felt appropriate for the 

If the Americans were worried that Edward Snowden would start working 
with the Russians, this would have been the fastest transfer in the 
history of the airport. Instead, he was now stuck in Russia.

â Initially, I just think they panicked. They expected that the Hong 
Kong Government would basically just turn me over. And when I was in the 
air on my way to Moscow, they had like ten hours. They decided to freeze 
it and they didnât roll the decision back, ever. At this point it was an 
emotional attack, where it didnât matter what Iâd done. It was more 
like, âRussia, Russia, Russiaâ, because Russia has such a bad 
international reputation right now. They could just pin me with that. 
But I donât know.

When asked by the US, how Edward Snowden could walk through passport 
control at Hong Kongâs Chek Lap Kok Airport without being stopped, Hong 
Kong blamed it on inadequate information. Something the US, in turn, 

The documents that were sent to the Nordic countries from the US 
authorities also seem to have been written in a hurry.

One read: âGood Morning â I hope this email finds you all doing well. I 
am sending you a notification our service is providing to many of our 
partners regarding the current status of US citizen Edward Snowden. This 
information is being provided in the event he should enter your country 
from his current location in Moscow. Please feel free to call or email 
me if you have any questions. Thank you.â

In the slightly more formal request sent out separately (in any case to 
Norway, and certainly also to the other Nordic countries), the US 
embassy affirms its respect for the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, asking 
them to immediately inform the embassy and enforce the extradition of 
Mr. Snowden to the United States, should he show up.

The text was accompanied by this exhaustive description: âHe is a 
Caucasian male with brown hair and eyes, and wears glasses.â

If the Nordic countries were trusted to assist the US in the search for 
Snowden, US trust was considerably smaller when Bolivian President Evo 
Morales was flying home from Moscow. Allegedly, country after country â 
France, Portugal, Spain, Italy â suddenly denied the presidential plane 
airspace. The plane was forced to land in Vienna because it was 
suspected that Snowden was hidden on board.

The Bolivian President was furious, accusing Europe of running errands 
for the US.

When it comes to the CIA kidnappings, so-called âextraordinary 
renditionsâ, the EU Parliament has, in an investigation, determined that 
at least 1,245 flights flew into European airspace or stopped over at 
European airports between the end of 2001 and the end of 2005. The âWar 
on terrorâ era is full of surveillance, harassment, kidnappings, torture 
and secret prisons.

At the same time itâs clear that the strategic values weigh heavily when 
it comes to the relationship with the US.

â Itâs really just crazy, the way that the US Government has handled the 
issue of torture. Because itâs so clear that is what theyâve done. Weâve 
even had an investigation in the intelligence committee, which almost 
never does anything meaningful. They usually act more like cheerleaders 
for the intelligence community, than watch-dogs. When they get a report 
thatâs so clear and when there were indications that there were people 
in the CIA, who wanted to talk about these things, but who felt 
stressed. Some even asked to be moved, because they couldnât cope with 
the things they were witnessing and they wanted to do something about 
it. But instead of providing some path for these individuals to report 
the wrongdoings that they were witnessing, the CIA actually asked them 
to stop documenting the abuse.

And the only person, who, to this point, has been convicted of this kind 
of wrongdoings, is the CIA officer who reported the waterboarding.

â They reason that itâs better to avoid embarrassment and to hide or 
conceal a wrongdoing than to actually fix it, correct it, even though 
the failure to do so could create a far greater, more long-term threat. 
In the torture investigations, it was established that we never got any 
meaningful intelligence, despite the fact that we were torturing people 
over a period of years. The cost of this is not just the logistical cost 
for black prisons, or the money â weâre talking about hundreds of 
millions, if not billions, of dollars of taxpayersâ currency to torture 

â Apart from the human costs for the people who are actually performing 
the torture and the people who are actually being tortured, thereâs the 
cost of foreign relations. The fact that weâre asking groups, 
institutions and countries like Sweden to allow rendition flights or to 
enable them or countries like Romania and Poland to host black sites. 
The same thing with Thailand, where they had actual torture centers. 
These countries begin to think weâre okay with that, these are things 
weâre willing to do, because if America does it, it must be alright. As 
long as itâs a serious enough case, as long as there is some reason for 
it. But ultimately, these things come out. You canât keep a secret 
thatâs so horrendous forever. You can keep it for years; you may be able 
to keep it for decades. But eventually it will come out. And you pay a 
moral cost. We actually spend money to shoot ourselves in the foot.

So why is the rest of the world turning a blind eye to this?

â Itâs legitimized by the threat of terrorism. Saying it will save lives 
and that anyone opposing it, risks getting blood on their hands.

Snowden says he also believes thereâs a degree of self-defense, just as 
in the case of the mass surveillance.

â They feel like acknowledging it would illustrate some weakness, or 
somehow legitimize abuse in countries like North Korea, Russia or China. 
But the truth is the opposite. Itâs a sign of strength to be able to say 
that we made mistakes, and then show that they can be corrected, show 
that they can be reformed.

     The drone program creates more terrorists than it kills. There was 
no Islamic State until we started bombing these states. The biggest 
threat we face in the region was born from our own policies.

Suddenly the doorbell rings. The feeling of uncertainty, from when we 
were waiting at the meeting point earlier, slips back into the room for 
a few seconds.

But Edward Snowden calmly walks over and opens the door for the man from 
room service. I get my steak â medium rare â and Edward Snowden gets his 
hamburger with fries. The others in the room are having tea and scones. 
DN photographer Lotta HÃrdelin and our contacts: Ole von UexkÃll and 
Xenya Cherny-Scanlon from the Right Livelihood Foundation, which awarded 
Snowden the Alternative Nobel Prize last year.

The announcement of the laureates, which usually is held in the Swedish 
Foreign Ministry, was temporarily banned last year by former Foreign 
Minister Carl Bildt. Edward Snowdenâs father, Lon, attended the award 
ceremony in his sonâs place.

Your father said he wishes Sweden would give you asylum. Would you feel 
safe in Sweden?

â It depends on the circumstances. But it would be important 

Itâs clear that heâs proud of you.

He laughs.

â Yes, heâs a little radical now. He never used to be radical.


â Yeah! I mean he worked for the military for 30 years. Heâs as 
conservative as it gets.

It was the same with Daniel Ellsbergâs father. Who later supported him.

â Right, right. Well, it was the same with Daniel Ellsberg, he led the 
marines and I signed up for the war in Iraq when everybody else was 
protesting against it. People get in the whole conservatives versus 
liberal thing, and they like to think of those conservative people as 
hateful people that donât care. And thatâs true of a small percentage, 
but we make a mistake when we generalize.

During the Bush administration, people were kidnapped all over the world 
and dumped in secret prisons, where they were tortured. During the Obama 
administration, the kidnappings, the secret prisons and the torture, 
have been replaced by death lists and extrajudicial executions of 
people, carried out by pilotless aircrafts, known as drones.
Read more
The Intercept: The Drone Papers (october 2015).

In October this year, the online magazine The Intercept published new 
classified documents, the so-called âDrone Papersâ. The documents show 
that nine out of ten of the people killed by drones werenât the intended 
targets, but civilians who afterwards are categorized EKIAS, enemy 
killed in action, which looks better statistically. They also show which 
people decide who to target. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was one 
of the people in the chain of command.

The documents also show what Edward Snowden was talking about earlier.

â Theyâre not targeting individuals, theyâre targeting phones. And they 
donât know whether the terrorist is holding the phone or whether his 
mother is holding it. And this is why so many drone strikes go wrong, 
why so many wedding parties get hit. The information they use is 
dangerous and unreliable. When I saw the Drone Papers, there wasnât a 
question in my mind that this was the most important security story of 
the year, he says.

I ask him about the terminology. âJackpotâ is when they kill the person 
they intended to kill. âTouchdownâ is a drone attack targeting someoneâs 
cell phone. âBaseball cardâ refers to information about the people they 
want to wipe out. The hunted people are called âobjectsâ and get names 
like âBrandyâ, âPost Mortemâ, âLethal Aspenâ, âRibeyeâ.

What is that? Is it jargon?

â Itâs the military language, everything is an acronym, everything is 
euphemized. You donât say assassinations, you say targeted killings. You 
say âkill/capture operationâ, even if nobody is going to be captured. 
Theyâve got their own culture.

Is it about dehumanizing people?

â Thereâs a lot of abstraction in it, because you donât want to think 
about the fact that youâre actually killing people. You donât want to 
think about the fact that these people may have a family. You want to 
think of them as objectives, you want to think of them as goals, you 
want to think of them as a puzzle. You donât want to think of you 
breaking into the heart of the most central infrastructure for 
communication in the world â Google. That youâre basically rummaging 
through everybodyâs private life. You want to think of this as a piece 
of infrastructure that will be a valuable source of intelligence 

I mention a quote in the Drone Papers. Itâs when Obamaâs former Director 
of National Intelligence explains the attraction of waging war by drone: 
âIt is the politically advantageous thing to do â low cost, no US 
casualties, gives the appearance of toughness, â it plays well 
domestically, and it is unpopular only in other countries.â
Listen (57 sec)
Is it about fighting terrorists or about winning elections?

â Itâs just itâs still politically beneficial. They can show that 
theyâre doing something. When they use the word security, theyâre not 
talking about safety. What theyâre talking about is stability. Like when 
theyâre saying that theyâre saving lives by bombing them. Stability is 
the new highest value. Itâs not about freedom, itâs not about liberty, 
itâs not even about safety. Itâs about avoiding change. Itâs about 
ensuring that things are predictable, shapeable, because then they are 

At least you think they are.

â Right. You think they are controllable.

Until IS comes along and destroys the whole idea.

â Right. Like with the drone program, which creates more terrorists than 
it kills. There was no Islamic State until we started bombing these 
states. The biggest threat we face in the region was born from our own 

Edward Snowden says thatâs a recurring feeling.

â Itâs like they have been thinking on an emotional level, not on a 
smart level. You get this immediate response that really doesnât make 
sense. And to be honest, when you think about the US foreign policy over 
the last decade, thatâs the only thing that could possibly explain what 
theyâre doing. Because could anybody look at what we now spent 15 years 
doing and say this was a genius plan, like this was a grand strategy 
that really worked out. Sure there have been bright points right, but 
there have been clear things like, for example, the drone program, where 
they know itâs not working, and yet they continue it.

He says another quote stuck with him from the Drone Papers.

â Itâs when he admits that the problem with the drone program is 
actually simply that it is creating more terrorists than it kills.

So why didnât it get bigger headlines?

Edward Snowden nods, saying heâs still optimistic.

â What is important, is simply by having that material published, the 
whistleblower effected changes in both law and policy. We just donât 
know it yet. Almost certainly as a result of seeing that information 
made public, the government has ordered internal reviews within their 
bureaucracies. And now advocacy organizations, representatives of the 
civil society and the non-governmental space, like the ACLU, will be 
able to bring legal challenges for those who have had their rights 
violated by these programs. Because previously, at least in the US, the 
government could flush these challenges out of courts by saying this is 
speculation, âyou canât prove this happenedâ. Even if everybody knows 
thatâs the case. And thereâs no stronger confirmation of the government 
engaging in wrongdoings, than government documents detailing their own 

He says that way, the documents are very important for the future.

â Because if they can win a single court case, they can protect the 
rights of an entire generation.

You mean that we journalists arenât as important as we like to believe 
we are?

â But yes, itâs disappointing that large institutional press, papers 
like The Washington Post, papers like The New York Times, try to avoid 
reporting on stories like this for competitive reasons, even when 
thereâs a significant public interest in doing so. Headlines are 
important for public awareness, for holding people in account in terms 
of vote. You have to remember that even judges, even the heads of the 
intelligence agencies, even the parliamentarians who make our laws, are 
not in the position of virtually being the greatest geniuses in society. 
They are not some extraordinary people who know everything about 
everything. They read the papers too and are informed as a result of 
these. Itâs not enough to simply have a free press. Itâs not enough that 
you can write anything. Journalists should feel at least some sense of 
obligation that corresponds to performing a public service. Helping 
people understand what they need to know, just as much as what they want 
to know. They can only govern with the consent of the governed. But 
consent isnât consent if it isnât informed.

Daniel Ellsberg leaked the âPentagon Papersâ in the 70s. He said he 
waited 40 years for someone to come forward with new documents. Then 
there was Chelsea Manning. Four years later, there was Edward Snowden.

And now roughly two years later, thereâs another leak. You talk about a 
Hydra. If you chop the head of a whistleblower or source, youâll have a 
new one. It seems to be going faster now. Can this source remain 

â I hope so. And who knows, it might be me.

He says it a tad teasingly, explaining what he means.

â Thereâs one beneficial thing with me. In court, anybody who releases 
documents that are older than May 2013 can use me as a fence since the 
NSA never identified all the documents that went walking.

We know that you took all these documents, due to the fact that you went 
to the press. The NSA still doesnât know which documents youâve got. So 
if spies do the same thing, they should be able to walk away with 
documents all the time, without anyone finding out?

â Yes, yes, absolutely. I just spoke with a former FBI Agent at an ACLU 
conference and he made exactly that point. He said that the government 
has started all these programs called the âinsider threat programsâ. 
Itâs basically the kind of model where you watch your co-workers, and 
what theyâre doing and report if they do anything thatâs an indicator of 
concern. For example if they have TOR stickers or EFF stickers (TOR 
enables anonymous communication; Electronic Frontier Foundation defends 
your digital rights) and they work for the NSA, they would say thatâs an 
indication of split loyalties. Something like that. So you should report 

Theyâve learned their lesson, in other words. When Edward Snowden worked 
in Kunia in Hawaii, he had a sticker with the text âFreedom isnât freeâ 
on the door of his house. To work, he often wore a sweater sold by the 
Electronic Frontier Foundation, featuring a parody of the NSA logo. The 
eagleâs claws were carrying surveillance earphones instead of keys. And 
on his desk, he kept the US Constitution.

The odds of an intelligence officer from a foreign power walking around 
with their values written as clearly, might not be something to hope for 
too much. And just keeping track of intelligence service employees seems 
to require its own intelligence service.

After September 11, 2001, suddenly more than 1,200 government 
organizations and almost 2,000 private companies were working with 
terrorist control. Nearly five million Americans had some kind of 
security clearance, and about 1.4 million had access to top secret 
material. As someone described it â security clearances were handed out 
like Kleenex.

Even if the NSA is a public authority, itâs part of countless 
constellations of private companies, where many of the main functions 
have been outsourced. The agency employs about 30,000 people, but within 
the NSA, there are also approximately 60,000 contracted employees 
through private companies.

The intelligence community has also seen a transfer of power from senior 
agents, not quite mastering the new technology, to younger talents, like 
Edward Snowden, who was hired by the CIA at the age of 22. A former 
employee said that there was nothing in his background that could have 
prevented him from qualifying for a âtop-secret security clearanceâ, for 
the simple reason that âHe was so young. He didnât have a history.â

When Edward Snowden secured a job at the consulting firm Booz Allen 
Hamilton in Hawaii, to get full access to the NSAâs unprocessed 
surveillance archive, the company prided itself, both online and in its 
annual report from the previous year, on the fact that âIn all walks of 
life, our most trusted colleagues and friends have this in common: We 
can count on them. No matter what the situation or challenge, they will 
be there for us. Booz Allen Hamilton is trusted in that way. You can 
count on us.â

So how do you know who to trust?

Edward Snowden says you donât, of course. And he says that the former 
FBI Agent made that same point. That itâs crazy that the government is 
so obsessed with whistleblowers who are working with the press.

â No spy in the world involves the press. He also said that, asking an 
audience, who knows the name Edward Snowden, everybody raises their 
hand. Who knows Chelsea Manning? And a lot of people raise their hand. 
Who knows about Thomas Drake? A few people raise their hand. Who knows 
the name Jeffrey Delisle? Nobody raises their hand.

Who is Jeffrey Delisle?

â Jeffrey Delisle was a Canadian spy, who was arrested like a year ago. 
He admitted to having entered a top secret facility with a thumb drive, 
plugged his thumb drive into a computer, taken everything in the system 
and brought it to the Russian embassy, where he sold it to them 
directly. For four years. And they never knew about it.

The risks of having a mass surveillance system collecting data on your 
own citizens without adequate security are obvious. The claims that 
Edward Snowdenâs leak would have put the lives of people at risk, as 
they said in 2013, have also proved groundless.

â CIA, NSA and DIA (Defence Intelligence Agency) Directors all have  
been brought on the floor of the congress and they have been asked by my 
strongest critics, begged for any evidence, that any national security 
interest has been harmed, that any individual has come to harm. And not 
in any single case have they shown concrete evidence that this occurred.

After Snowdenâs disclosures, a court of appeal in the US, established 
that the US governmentâs collection of data on the telecommunication of 
millions of citizens was illegal.

At the same time thereâs a clear consensus among those defending the 
mass surveillance. A republican senator said: âNone of your civil 
liberties matter much after youâre deadâ.

A famous radio host said that âIf youâre sucking dirt inside a casket, 
do you know what your civil liberties are worth? Zilch. Zero, nada.â

In brief: Thereâs got to be occasions where security interests precede 
law and civil rights.

What is most favorable to the citizen will, of course, depend on who you 

A federal judge noted that the US does not cite a single case âin which 
analysis of the NSAâs bulk metadata collectionâ actually stopped an 
imminent terrorist attack.

NSAâs mass surveillance didnât prevent the failed terrorist attack on an 
airplane bound for Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, the plan to bomb Times 
Square, or the plan to attack the New York subway system. Instead, 
observant bystanders and traditional police work stopped these cases.

Nor has the surveillance been able to prevent any of the massacres that 
actually have happened.

âIf you collect everything, you understand nothingâ, as Edward Snowden 
puts it.

That mass surveillance was aimed at controlling terrorists no longer 
felt that plausible, when it was revealed that the NSA had intercepted 
Angela Merkelâs private cell phone. Just like when it was revealed that 
the GCHQ, NSAâs partner in the UK, used their mass surveillance tools to 
monitor Amnesty.

Edward Snowden spreads his arms.

â Pardon my language; Iâm actually not going to say it, but howâ

He pauses for me to hear the unspoken words.

ââ. is Amnesty threatening us?

So why are they doing it?

â Ultimately, it comes back to that same feeling when people put up 
cameras in their own homes to keep track of whatâs going on. Even if 
thereâs no threat, even if no one ever broke into their homes. Itâs the 
attractiveness of believing youâre in control. You do it because you can 
do it.

Which also applied to the NSA employees who were caught having used the 
agencyâs powerful spy tool to monitor their partners.
Read more
NPR on #NSApickuplines (august, 2013).

After the disclosures, the hash tag #NSApickuplines started featuring 
tweets such as âI know exactly where youâve been all my lifeâ and âI bet 
youâre tired of guys who only pretend to listen.â

This kind of privacy invasion is uncomfortable to most people. Steaming 
ten letters open â a common practice of the German Stasi during the Cold 
War â feels like a greater privacy breach than intercepting several 
billion emails.

â A single death is a tragedy, a million is statistics. Of course itâs a 
challenge. There is a point when the scope of a violation becomes so 
staggering that it becomes hard to understand, to imagine. Itâs hard to 
accept so we turn away from it. âWe live in a free society but weâre 
being watched all the time.â

How do you explain mass surveillance to someone who doesnât feel 
monitored? Someone who âdoesnât have anything to hideâ.

â Itâs not about not having something to hide; itâs about having 
something to lose. What we lose when weâre under observation is our 
humanity. What shapes us, what makes us individuals, is the fact that we 
can think, we can develop.
Listen (38 sec)

â Arguing that you donât care about the right to privacy because you 
have nothing to hide, is no different than saying you donât care about 
free speech because you have nothing to say, or the freedom of press 
because youâre not a journalist, or the freedom of religion because 
youâre not a Christian. Rights in societies are collective, and 
individual. You canât give away the rights of a minority, even if you 
vote as a majority. Rights are inherent to our nature, theyâre not 
granted by governments, theyâre guaranteed by governments. Theyâre 
protected by governments.

They say you can judge a society by how it treats its weakest members. I 
come to think of a few lines from Glenn Greenwaldâs book about the 
Snowden documents:

âThe true measure of a societyâs freedom is how it treats its dissidents 
and other marginalized groups, not how it treats good loyalists. Even in 
the worldâs worst tyrannies, dutiful supporters are immunized from 
abuses of state power.â

When The New York Times published the first excerpt of Daniel Ellsbergâs 
7,000 page Pentagon Papers, a court order requested by the Nixon 
administration prevented the newspaper from publishing the documents. 
For 13 days, Daniel Ellsberg was at the center of something the press 
described as the âbiggest manhunt since the Lindbergh kidnappingâ, while 
he continued to distribute the documents across the country to 17 
newspapers that now relay published them, to mock the FBI. On June 30, a 
Supreme Court decision finally lifted the ban.

When it came to the Snowden documents, Guardian editor-in-chief Alan 
Rusbridger, was determined to protect the material. He set up a special 
editorial room at the London office, which was guarded 24/7 by security 
guards with lists of who had access.

In the UK, the press is more independent than in the US, and not as 
close to the government. At the same time, British journalists donât 
boast the same constitutional rights and freedoms as their American 
colleagues, so as the British government started becoming increasingly 
aggressive, Alan Rusbridger got in touch with The New York Times. The 
temperature in the UK was rising, he explained. The plan was that The 
Guardian would hide behind the US Constitution by transferring the 
material to their American colleagues.

A week later, two men from the GCHQ came, insisting that The Guardian 
either destroy or surrender the files. They called themselves âIanâ and 
âChrisâ, but The Guardian nicknamed them âThe Hobbitsâ.

The man who went by the name Ian, said: âYouâve got plastic cups on your 
table. Plastic cups can be turned into microphones. The Russians can 
send a laser beam through your window and turn them into a listening 

The GCHQ team then opened a bag and pulled out what looked like a large 
microwave. The Guardian staff was told that it was a demagnetizer and 
that its purpose was to destroy magnetic fields, and thus erase hard 
drives and data.

Ian said: âYouâll need one of theseâ.

A Guardian employee said: âWeâll buy our own degausser, thanksâ.

Ian said: âNo you wonât. It costs GBP 30 000â.

The employee answered: âOkay, we probably wonât thenâ.

The Guardian staff would then take turns to smash the computers, memory 
cards, chips and hard drives in the basement under the supervision of 
The Hobbits. It all took three hours.

Today, many investigative journalists in Western democracies work with 
handwritten notes, outdoor walks, encrypted coded correspondence and 
cell phones placed in microwaves when dealing with sensitive material. 
âJust like during the Cold War,â as a New York Times reporter put it.

Surveys made after Snowdenâs revelation, show that 58 percent of the 
journalists covering security policy issues in the US today have changed 
their working methods.

     These are not people torturing people. These are people sitting 
behind a desk, thinking everything they do is completely legal.

Dusk is falling outside the window in Moscow. Lunch has started drifting 
to à la carte, as I ask Edward Snowden to write down his top five list 
of favorites among safe programs.

Just like in the documentary âCitizenfourâ Iâm fascinated by how he, 
with all his computer skills, immediately steps down to another level. 
Like a Formula 1 driver who happily squeezes a child seat in the front 
seat, chugging along at 20 km/h. That extraordinary combination of IQ 
and EQ.
Facts. Snowdenâs top 5 secure programs

1. Tor
Anonymization software which bounces traffic through several computers 
to conceal where it is coming from. The easiest way of using is through 
âTor browserâ â a web reader configured for Tor.

2. Signal
Easy-to-use mobile application for IOS or Android which encrypts calls 
and chat conversations.

3. Off the record
Encryption method for chats which often is shortened OTR. Comes built in 
to some chat programs, for example Adium, exists as an add on to others.

4. Tails OS
Operative system specifically for integrity issues. Can be carried on a 
USB-stick and used in for example internet cafÃs. Leaves no traces on 
the computer.

5. Qubes
Operative system for the person who really cares about their security. 
Qubes splits the systemâs parts and isolates them from each other, as if 
you had a computer for every program you were running, so that a 
security problem in one program will not affect other programs.

As he writes in my notebook, I canât help noticing how he holds the pen. 
A grip that tells me heâs someone whoâs used to typing on a keyboard 
rather than writing by hand. It feels like Iâve forced a hockey player 
to unlace his skates and run ten meters on ice.

He adjusts his glasses, then takes them off for a while.

The short-sightedness.

â I have to hold things this close to be able to see them.

He holds up a piece of paper ten centimeters from his face.

Iâm thinking how strange it feels to meet people that youâve already 
read so much about. I know he has -6.50 on one eye and -6.25 on the 
other. Unusually small feet, taking forever to find military boots his 
size at US Army base Fort Benning. That he doesnât drink alcohol or 
coffee, and has never been drunk. So mysterious and quiet at private 
parties that his friends would compare him to the vampire Edward in 
âTwilightâ. At the same time, heâs one of the most verbal people Iâve 
ever met. A person who speaks clear American English in a voice that 
often emphasizes a word in each sentence, making also whatâs hard 

I say that my experience is that the main problem is installing these 
programs. Using them isnât that hard once youâve started.

He puts his glasses back on.

We want to make lower friction to lower the barriers. The problem is 
that these products are still too technical, I think, to pass the 
âgrandma testâ. People say: please donât use the grandma test because 
itâs disrespectful to âgrandmaâ.

We can also call it the âGreenwald testâ.

â Haha! Donât do that! Heâll grouch at you on Twitter.

But why donât the internet companies make it easier for us to use 
encrypted communication?

â There are a lot of reasons. One is, if itâs not making money, they 
donât have any incentive to do it. Two is, now their governments are 
complaining about it, so theyâre a little bit worried of picking and 
choosing sides, but I think they need to think really hard. Because if 
you work for one government you work for all the governments. Because if 
you give the US special back door access, youâre not going to be able to 
sell your iPhone in China, unless you also give them a back door. The 
same in Russia.

I say that Iâve been surprised by how shamelessly the NSA brags about 
what they do, like when they had drawn a map of how they broke into 
Googleâs system. One document even had a little smiley, saying 
encryption âadded and removed hereâ.

â These are not people torturing people. These are people sitting behind 
a desk, thinking everything they do is completely legal, and even if it 
isnât, itâs never going to become public, because itâs all classified. 
For them itâs just solving a series of puzzles, to them itâs just an 
interesting problem. They go: âWe want to be able to read what Google is 
doing, but Google is encrypting stuff, so what can we do? How can we get 
around it?â And somebody probably spent six weeks on itâ

He laughs.

â â or actually more like six minutes.

Some people have had a hard time understanding how a 29 year old man 
could give up his high salary, his job, his life and his family, to 
defend the democratic values most of us claim we want to live by.

In totalitarian states around the world, 29 year old men and women are 
standing up for the right not to be monitored, the right not to be 
harassed, rule of law and freedom of speech, even when it means risking 
death penalty, lashing, life time imprisonment or exile.
Facts. The writer, the photographer and the meeting
Lena SundstrÃm is an author and journalist: She has been nominated for 
the August literature prize twice â once for the book âSpÃrâ about the 
expulsion and torture of two Egyptian Swedes. She has also been 
nominated for the Swedish Grand Prize for Journalism. She has also been 
awarded the âGold Spadeâ, Torgny Segerstedtâs âFreedom penâ and the 
Swedish National Press Clubâs great prize.

Lotta HÃrdelin is a photographer at Dagens Nyheter. She has been come 
second in the competition âPicture of the yearâ and is the photographer 
behind the pictures for BjÃrn af Kleens story âThe occupied landscapeâ 
which is nominated for the Swedish Grand Prize for Journalism 2015.

The interview with Edward Snowden was carried out in late October 2015.

Many journalists can bear witness to the fact that it can be easier to 
find sources willing to take great risks in countries where they risk 
more than in democracies, where people just risk silence in the coffee 
room or losing their jobs. I ask Snowden what he thinks is the reason.

â Ultimately, in many cases, people are, on the large scale, rational 
actors. Living in a country where the worst case scenario is losing your 
job, at the same time they see that the system is very stable, very 
robust. Which means: The politicians will talk, the press will write 
something about it, they will move around some letters in some 
legislation. But the ultimate outcome of their sacrifice will be very 
small. There will be nominal changes to law or policy, as opposed to 
structural reforms. Whereas if youâre in a weaker state, youâre in a 
less stable regime, you have the chance of basically being the action, 
the spark that lights the fire, and changes the country for the better 
in a real and lasting way.

â But heyâ

He laughs.

â Iâm just speculating.

I come to think of something I heard Edward Snowden say of himself at 
some point. That heâs an ordinary guy in an extraordinary situation. 
That is probably true. He maintains his right to be ordinary, despite 
the extraordinary circumstances. Someone who opens the door himself, 
takes food orders and meets us without lawyers for a several hours long 
conversation, because he likes travelling by talking â both in real life 
and on the internet, which he loves precisely because itâs a âshark 
tankâ where you are forced to sharpen your arguments, rather than a more 
pragmatic âthink tankâ.

The symbolic value that materializes when an anonymous leak becomes a 
whistleblower with a name, a face and a context, someone who can carry a 
story with a weight that doesnât require medals on the chest.

Earlier in the conversation, Snowden mentioned there being a motto when 
he worked for the CIA: âMission first, mission first.â

Maybe just the mission has changed. The question that Iâve been 
pondering over for two years was probably put the wrong way from the 
start. Edward Snowden didnât give up his country to become a 

Heâs here because he never gave up.

An article by

Text: Lena SundstrÃm
Photo: Lotta HÃrdelin
Editor: Axel BjÃrklund
Art direction: Lotta Ek
Digital presentation: Robert Piirainen, Rickard Frank
Video editing: Lars Lindqvist
Translation: Karolina MÃrn
Additional translation: Evelyn Jones, Ingmar NevÃus


Luke Harding: âThe Snowden Filesâ
Daniel Ellsberg: âSecretsâ
Glenn Greenwald: âNo place to hideâ
Laura Poitras: âCitizenfourâ
James Risen: âPay any priceâ
ÂFrontline/PBS: âUnited States of Secretsâ
Andy Worthington: âThe Guantanamo Filesâ
Larry Siems: âThe Torture Reportâ, âThe Torture Report Diaryâ, 
Michael Gurnow: âThe Snowden affairâ
Brian Martin: âWhistleblowing â A practical guideâ
Mohamedou Ould Slahi: âGuantanamo â En dagbokâ
Stephen Grey: âGhost Planeâ
Armando Spataro: âNe valeva la penaâ
Alfred W McCoy: âA question of Tortureâ
And articles and segments published and shown in: The Intercept, The 
Guardian, Independent, Washington Post, New York Times, The Huffington 
Post, Der Spiegel, Reuters, Corriere della Sera, Wired, Salon, Vanity 
Fair, Fokus, BBC, PBS, CNN, NRK, TV4 och SVT.

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