Snowden: ‘Truth is coming and it can’t be stopped’

Edward Snowden (AP Photo/The Guardian, File)

Edward Snowden (AP Photo/The Guardian, File)

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.”

38 comments Add your comment


June 17th, 2013
10:10 am

Enter your comments here


June 17th, 2013
10:11 am

Edward Snowden A Crime Scene waiting for the SUITS and The Tape!

Alan OKeefe

June 17th, 2013
10:22 am

Don’t you think it was a mistake to have you in that position more than it being wrong in what they were doing? The world needs something like this no mater how evil or intrusive it may sound. And by doing what you did,,you’re going to make all the terrorists that much harder to touch. Don’t you think you just wizened them up.


June 17th, 2013
10:39 am

I still don’t understand how HE was even qualified for that job? I mean a HS dropout….GED gettin’…sob


June 17th, 2013
10:44 am

He is pompous and HE is a TRAITOR. He gets whatever he has coming to him….and it can’t come soon enough.

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution [...]


June 17th, 2013
10:50 am

Big Brother has been watching everything about everyone for decades. Nothing new here. If you’re not doing anything illegally, you don’t have to worry about Big Brother getting into your details.

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution [...]

Loose Lips

June 17th, 2013
10:53 am

Wow….this guy is no different than the idiot who gets a gun and shoots folks – so he could be famous (or infamous).

1. Why did he not report any actions (he believed to be) the NSA was doing to an “Inpector General” or a “GAO?”

2. Why would you take a job for an intelligence agency – when you know there will be activities being conducted that you can’t discuss.

3. You took an oath of non-disclosure.

4. How is this guy a whistle blower and not a traitor?

5. Knowing what the enemy is doing (and some of them are U.S. citizens) WINS WARS AND STOPS TERROR ATTACKS.

6. Finally, can he name just one American citizen who has been “harmed” by this NSA program.


[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution [...]

Loose Lips

June 17th, 2013
11:00 am


You are so pathetic….enjoy China – I hope they will grant you all of the freedoms you took for granted when you spilled the BEANS…

You’re FOOL…………..


June 17th, 2013
11:05 am

As a Retired Military Person after 30 years of service. This guy makes me sick to my stomach. He absolutely cares nothing about this country or the people in it.
Go to Iceland and get a life.


June 17th, 2013
11:07 am

He’s a traitor. He needs to be brought back to the US, tried, found gulty and stood against a wall and shot.


June 17th, 2013
11:12 am

If what the NSA is collecting is all about stopping terrorist…why did Obama sign an order saying they could not collect on mosque. Are not most terrorist muslims.. or were until obama declared tea partiers and southern baptist terrorist.

Due Diligence

June 17th, 2013
11:36 am

That’s right attack the messenger before you know the facts. That is the easiest thing to do here. But I personally don’t know the truth yet, but he sure makes me at least investigate it for myself so that I can due my due diligence and make my OWN personal decision about this subject. Many of you personal vultures need to look into the facts before making such weak and stupid comments. Gotta be Obama supporters, gotta be.


June 17th, 2013
11:44 am

Attack Dog

June 17th, 2013
11:50 am

1. Can Edward Snowden use the Karl Rove defense for leaking out secret information?

Attack Dog

June 17th, 2013
11:54 am

2. Does Snowden’s response in the the next to the last Q&A, admit that what Big Brother is doing is legal because of specific clauses in the Patriot Act? We remember, those clauses that Liberals pointed out during the debate and Conservatives defended by say that “they have nothing to hide!

Loose Lips

June 17th, 2013
11:59 am

@Due Dillgence


1. Mr. Snowden signed a non-disclosure agreement.
2. He broke this agreement when he discussed classified information with the media.
3. Our country has programs where someone can come forward with a concern – and that concern would be investigated.

These are the facts…..and since we are a country of laws – he will have to face the consequences for breaking our laws….


Civil Liberties

June 17th, 2013
12:14 pm

@ Loose Lips,

The President and the US Congress all take oaths to uphold the US Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
The 4th Amendment reads as, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized”
There can be no “probably cause” that is so broad in scope as to cover all Verizon customers.

This isn’t about “do you have anything to hide”. This is about our Government blatantly ignoring the US Constitution and seizing and searching our private communications without any probably cause of a crime, AND doing it under the veil of secrecy.

And since we are a country of laws that cannot contradict the US Constitution, the US Government will have to face the consequences of ignoring our civil rights as US Citizens.

Ben Franklin

June 17th, 2013
12:46 pm

“Those who would give up essential Liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither Liberty nor safety.”


June 17th, 2013
1:13 pm

Does anyone seriously think that astute foreign governments and enemies such as al-Qaeda, do not know in some detail the extent of U.S. information gathering? Why on earth do we think that Bin Laden confined his communications to personal couriers? So, the only real purpose of secrecy, is to hide what is being done from the American people, in order to avoid a debate and possible curtailing of activities. The first casualty of war is liberty at home, and we have been in a continuous state of war for decades now. That people have gotten accustomed to the loss of their liberty, is a tragedy. It used to be a truly free country, that did not require an ID for every little blasted thing, and did not engage in wholesale spying on its citizens. We’ve forgotten what that is like.

Loose Lips

June 17th, 2013
1:36 pm

@Civil Liberties

We have Supreme Court justices that all can’t agree on what our founding fathers “really” meant when they drafted the Constitution – so I am not going to use this forum to debate you on it.

Bottom line is this guy siged an agreement that he would not disclose classified information.

As I stated earlier – we have programs and avenues in place that he could have voiced a concern without having to disclose our nation’s secrets.

I wonder…if this program was in place prior to 9/11 – how many U.S. lives we could have saved….



June 17th, 2013
1:38 pm

This guy makes me sick. Who made him judge and jury regarding national security operations? He is a narcissistic loser, the sooner gone the better.

JF McNamara

June 17th, 2013
2:17 pm

I’m glad to see people are waking up to see what this guy is. He’s a traitor to his country.

@Civil Liberties,

I’m so tired of this fourth amendment argument. The constitution is a living document. Our Congress makes laws and our Judicial system interprets those laws. The Judicial system says that it is legal. That pretty much invalidates your opinion, since it is their interpretation which guides law. That’s how America works. Deal with it.


June 17th, 2013
2:37 pm

I have real questions about the extent that he is merely China’s cat’s paw. When asked if he is a Chinese spy above, he answers the question with another question—a classic way of dissembling. Well, no–if he really were a Chinese spy they would never do anything as stupid as fly him directly to Beijing. They would milk him for maximum effect, so they would fly him to their nearby territory of Hong Kong where he could hold forth, and then after awhile he would disappear into that city or mainland China.

On a U.S. salary of $122,000, how did he pay for his air flight to Hong Kong, his hotel and room service for three weeks, and his subsistence now? Was he in contact with the Chinese while still working? Is their purpose in having him publicize this security information really to disable our security system? (Unlikely.) Or is it to cause the American people to lose faith in their government?

I see here Sun Tzu’s ancient war strategy from “The Art of War” (c. 600 B.C.): “Cause division among them; cause division between the leadership and their ministers … cause rifts between the leadership and their followers, or between them and their allies–cause division, and then attack.”

I hope that someone in NSA is reading Sun Tzu. The U.S. Army used to include “The Art of War” as part of their officers’ training for ground war in Asia.

Reading is fundamental.

June 17th, 2013
3:16 pm

Prof, did you actually bother to read the full exchange?

From the full question and answer session posted on the Guardian’s website:

“Follow-up from the Guardian’s Spencer Ackerman:

Regarding whether you have secretly given classified information to the Chinese government, some are saying you didn’t answer clearly – can you give a flat no?


No. I have had no contact with the Chinese government. Just like with the Guardian and the Washington Post, I only work with journalists.”

You can debate whether he is telling the truth until you are blue in the face, but his statement is unequivocal.

Painting this guy as a hero or traitor is largely irrelevant now, as the toothpaste is out of the tube.

The fact remains that he opened the can of worms that is modern technology with all its wonders and horrors and is at least forcing those of us who value privacy in our lives to discuss what the limits of governmental intrusion should be.

Saying trite things like “If you’ve done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear” is actually pretty dangerous.

We all have our secrets and we all have a past.

Who should have the right to mine that information?

Reading is fundamental.

June 17th, 2013
4:25 pm

The government is capable of striking the right balance between privacy and security.

What we need is more transparency, which is certainly possible, because there are plenty of good people in government who want to do the right thing when it comes to protecting this great country.

If there are clear safeguards put in place to assure innocent citizens that their personal information cannot be accessed for arbitrary and capricious reasons, and information retrieval is made in a defensible and systematic manner, then certain surveillance could be justified.

There is no practical way for most people to live off the grid in modern society, and we leave a digital trail every day whether we are aware of it or not.

I think what most people want who are alarmed by this fiasco are explanations about what is being done on a broad level so that we at least have some understanding of our due process rights. Such explanations would go a long way in addressing our concerns regarding potential constant and robust surveillance.


June 17th, 2013
4:33 pm

@ Reading is Fundamental, 3:17 pm. I read the exchange given to us above, which includes this question.

” 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.”

I also notice that his answer to the question, “Can you give a flat no?” is–”No.”

Reading is fundamental.

June 17th, 2013
4:40 pm

@ Prof

Did you not read and understand the next sentence?

“I have had no contact with the Chinese government.”

Reading is fundamental.

June 17th, 2013
4:54 pm

Again, I don’t think the primary focus should be on this one individual but rather the much larger issue of privacy versus security.

I think he deserves a fair trial if he lives long enough to be brought back to the U.S.A., don’t you?

I hope that the public debate does not become sidetracked by focusing on this guy, because the much more important issue is determining what privacy rights we should expect as citizens.


June 17th, 2013
8:07 pm

@ Reading is Fundamental.

Why are we having this discussion about “the privacy rights we should expect as citizens” now, when the Patriot Act which made this situation possible passed under Bush in 2001 with so little concern? Passed overwhelmingly by both parties, and with public consent according to all the polls. I remember that time well…I remember boarding a plane then with the new security guards on it, and feeling quite defensive because the book I had brought to read was “Why Societies Need Dissent,” by Cass Sunstein.

So why the shock and outrage now, when Republicans, Democrats and most of the public wanted this? When you signed away your privacy rights with the Patriot Act, and voted to renew the Act years later (2008?)–then why this righteous surprise because it’s been implemented? Hypocrisy–really hypocrisy.


June 17th, 2013
8:21 pm

Just to refresh your memory, the Patriot Act was proposed, approved overwhelmingly by both congressional houses, and signed into law by President Bush 45 days after the terrorist attacks on November 11, 2001—”9-11.” The Patriot Re-authorization Act was approved in 2005., with equally strong bipartisan support.

Reading is fundamental.

June 17th, 2013
9:15 pm

I did not realize that once a bill is signed into law it becomes permanent and cannot be challenged or reconsidered in the future.

I hope that is not what you’re implying.

I did not agree with the vague and overbroad provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act in the 2000s and do not agree with them now.

Unfortunately, fear is a powerful political tool and has been since governments were first formed.

Do you think it wise to simply accept these newly discovered encroachments into the private sphere without further public discussion of their ramifications?


June 18th, 2013
9:27 am

You may not agree with the Patriot Act that became law in 2001 and then was “reauthorized” in 2005, but it’s the law under which the NSA was created and has operated. Of course a law can be “challenged or reconsidered in the future.” That happened with this law in 2005, when the original Act was somewhat modified although its basis remained. The idea of this polarized, highly politicized Congress and President taking on the task of rewriting the Patriot Act and dismantling the NSA seems to me as disastrous as proposing the original Patriot Act.

Of course there will be such “public discussions of …[the] ramifications.” But no-one has the complete facts, and I sure don’t trust Snowden’s version, no matter what he proclaims to The Guardian. He has already proved himself spectacularly capable of lying when he broke his oath made upon joining the NSA, and I don’t see why he should be trusted now.


June 18th, 2013
9:37 am

It seems very likely to me that Snowden is merely a cat’s paw for China, whose real intention is to cause profound distrust of the U.S. government by its people. Snowden announced all of this at a time when the country is about as divided and polarized as it can get. Such distrust of our government is far more dangerous to this country and its principles than any physical bombing of the Boston Marathon.

Reading is fundamental.

June 18th, 2013
9:48 am

Who said anything about dismantling the NSA?

I don’t think the NSA needs to be dismantled as it does serve a valid and crucial role in protecting our national security.

However, I do believe that there needs to be greater transparency regarding the checks and balances of the surveillance system, and yes I do believe our government still listens to the will of the people.

Whether any real sustained constructive dialogue occurs remains to be seen, but throwing up our hands and saying that revising the USA PATRIOT Act would be “disastrous” is cynical at best and lazy at worst.


June 18th, 2013
10:40 am

The original legal justification for creating the NSA was the Patriot Act, so it’s hard to see how this agency could continue as is without that Act. “Cynical” and “lazy” are your epithets; I would say “realistic.”

For just who is to do this revision of the Patriot Act ? The very recent terrorist plots that either succeeded or came close to succeeding have created a political atmosphere about as highly charged as in 2001. Snowden is doing an excellent job of implicating the President in both following the Patriot Act and extending its implementation, thus pretty well turning this all into a partisan issue…quite deliberately, I think. He is not some neutral “whistle-blower.” Why didn’t he stop at publicizing the general information about the surveillance network that he had learned?

At present, both congressional houses are deeply partisan. They actually let the sequestration cuts take place. Is the House to undertake proposing such a revision of the Patriot Act, with the House’s 3-year history of knee-jerk opposition to anything proposed by the President? Anything proposed by the Senate in this area must be approved by the House, of course. The President cannot propose legislation, although he can veto it.

And the Republicans are thoroughly implicated in this too, since the Act was first passed and then “re-authorized” when Bush was President, as the Democrats are sure to point out.

The Chinese have done a great job of kicking over the hornet’s nest without being directly implicated…at exactly the time when we have accused them of cyber-spying, don’t forget.