The whistleblower behind what many call the “biggest intelligence leak in U.S. history” answered online questions today on the Guardian newspaper’s website.
Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald, who broke the story along with the Washington Post, hosted the live Q&A that began at 11 a.m. Eastern Time.
Snowden, 29, an ex-CIA employee, is presumably still in Hong Kong after earlier this month revealing the National Security Agency is hoarding phone call data, including that of Americans who have broken no laws.
Many, including federal authorities, consider Snowden a traitor for releasing the top-secret data to reporters. Others think he’s a civil liberties hero.
What questions would you ask Snowden?
Here is a sample of questions Snowden answered. Visit the Guardian site for the complete Q&A.
Q: How many sets of documents did you make? If anything happens to you do they still exist?
A: “All I can say right now is the US Government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me. Truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped.”
Q: Why did you just not fly direct to Iceland if that is your preferred country for asylum?
A: “NSA employees must declare their foreign travel 30 days in advance and are monitored. There was a distinct possibility I would be interdicted en route, so I had to travel with no advance booking to a country with the cultural and legal framework to allow me to work without being immediately detained. Hong Kong provided that. Iceland could be pushed harder, quicker, before the public could have a chance to make their feelings known, and I would not put that past the current US administration.”
Q: Did you lie about your salary? What is the issue there? Why did you tell Glenn Greenwald that your salary was $200,000 a year, when it was only $122,000 (according to the firm that fired you.)
A: “The statement I made about earnings was that $200,000 was my ‘career high’ salary. I had to take pay cuts in the course of pursuing specific work. Booz was not the most I’ve been paid.”
Q: Can analysts listen to content of domestic calls without a warrant?
A: “NSA likes to use ‘domestic’ as a weasel word here for a number of reasons. The reality is that due to the FISA Amendments Act and its section 702 authorities, Americans’ communications are collected and viewed on a daily basis on the certification of an analyst rather than a warrant. They excuse this as ‘incidental’ collection, but at the end of the day, someone at NSA still has the content of your communications. Even in the event of “warranted” intercept, it’s important to understand the intelligence community doesn’t always deal with what you would consider a “real” warrant like a Police department would have to, the “warrant” is more of a templated form they fill out and send to a reliable judge with a rubber stamp.”
Q: Edward, there is rampant speculation, outpacing facts, that you have or will provide classified US information to the Chinese or other governments in exchange for asylum. Have/will you?
“This is a predictable smear that I anticipated before going public, as the US media has a knee-jerk “RED CHINA!” reaction to anything involving HK or the PRC, and is intended to distract from the issue of US government misconduct. Ask yourself: if I were a Chinese spy, why wouldn’t I have flown directly into Beijing? I could be living in a palace petting a phoenix by now.”