Edward Snowden

In Case You Missed It: A Live Virtual Discussion With Edward Snowden

Image courtesy of Sofya Freyman,  The JHU News-Letter

Image courtesy of Sofya Freyman, The JHU News-Letter

Last Wednesday night, over 1300+ Hopkins students, faculty, journalists, and Baltimore community members lined up to see Edward Snowden connect via video conference from an undisclosed location in Russia. The headlining event in our 2016 spring series, Architects of the Future, attracted a crowd that lined up all the way back to the Breezeway – our must successful event yet. For those unable to make it in person, we collected the best of quotes of the evening to recap the event.

The importance of privacy

“Privacy is the privilege to be able to enjoy our own intellect without prejudice or prejudgment until we can develop what we believe to the point at which we’re ready to share it with people around us... Individuals are born out of privacy.”
Fundamentally, the question of the boundaries of our rights is a question that should be answered by the American people.

The consequences of the 2013 intelligence leaks

The president said the government felt they’d drawn the right bounds. By January 2014, he said this conversation made us stronger as a nation. We got the USA Freedom Act as a result.

Government failure to protect the citizens' rights

The government is supposed to function as a system of checks and balances. To prevent such programs from going too far, there has to be a natural balance that prevents bad things from happening.
This means there is a danger when we don’t have public scrutiny. Judges are human too. If we divorce ourselves from these issues, the system begins to fail comprehensively across branches.

On journalists and his method of leaking information

I made journalists publish no story without first giving the government a chance to respond to the claims they make. That is why we’re sitting here in 2016, despite the fact that the CIA and NSA would like to say I have blood on my hands.
We have a double filter and replicate checks and balances with journalists. Then, they bring it to the government asking if it’s been brought too far. I don’t reveal what I think is a real threat.
Many think that I’m sitting in some shadowy room controlling a team of journalists...It’s not my choice to decide which documents are released. That’s why we have the press.

The politics of whistleblowing

We’ve had a long history of whistleblowers who have not been responded to gently. The institution retaliates when an individual speaks against it.
They destroyed Thomas Drake’s life. The Espionage Act of 1917 treated him as a spy even though he gave this information to Congress. Now he works in the Apple store.
Whistleblowers had burned their life to the ground. Whistleblowing requires you to be able to light a match and burn everything to the ground.

Why he did it

Everyone wants to think there was one spark that made me think... It took me a longer time period, gaining wider exposure to documents, until I realized the realities were different from the public representations of these facts.
We didn’t sign up to spy on our own country. No one in the NSA thinks they’re doing something terrible.

Terrorism and the "Infrastructure of Fear"

We’re no longer in a period of total war or existential threats. Terrorism claims fewer lives than our own police or automobile accidents. Why are we allocating so many of our resources in a way causing more threats? This boils down to a lack of courage in the political class.
Should we be investing in an infrastructure of fear? Or should we invest in things that will make a quantifiable difference and save lives, like education?

Prospects of Returning to The United States?

I said I wanted to be guaranteed a fair trial. The government responded that I would not be tortured. Let’s just say [returning home is] a work-in-progress.
Technology is bringing about the end of exile. I may go to sleep in Moscow, but right now I’m in Baltimore, and that’s a powerful thing.






Speaker Profile: Edward Snowden

In 2013, Edward Snowden captured global headlines when he leaked information on the mass-surveillance programs of the NSA, inciting fervent debates over privacy and government intelligence. He has received many honors for his actions, including The Guardian's Person of the Year and a spot on TIME's 100 Most Influential People in the World. Snowden—who lives in an undisclosed location in Russia, where he has been granted temporary asylum—will appear via a live video broadcast on February 17th at 8PM.

First, a timeline of the NSA leaks and exactly what they entailed. Then, both sides of the debate: interviews, op-ed’s, and reports that covers all the important information you need to know.

Timeline of NSA Leaks

  • June 5, 2013: The Guardian breaks coverage on leaked NSA documents that reveal the collection of telephone records from Verizon, one of the U.S.'s largest telecoms providers.
    • "Communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing."
  • June 6, 2013: NSA's PRISM program is revealed
    • PRISM is an undisclosed program that allows officials to collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats
    • Allows direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US internet giants
  • June 24, 2013: Edward Snowden moves from Hong Kong to Moscow, seeking asylum
  • July 31, 2013: XKeyscore revealed
    • Allows analysts to search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals
    • "Widest-reaching" system for developing intelligence from the internet
  • August 1, 2013: Russia grants Edward Snowden temporary asylum, against U.S. demands
  • October 30, 2013: Joint program with British agency – MUSCULAR
    • "Copying entire data flows across fiber-optic cables that carry information among the data centers of the Silicon Valley giants"
  • May 7, 2015: Mass phone surveillance ruled illegal by U.S. Court of Appeals
    • US court of appeals ruled that the bulk collection of telephone metadata is unlawful, in a landmark decision that clears the way for a full legal challenge against the National Security Agency
  • June 3, 2015: Congress passes USA Freedom Act, reforms NSA surveillance practices
    • The House of Representatives and U.S. Senate passed a bill to end the bulk collection of millions of Americans’ phone records, ushering in the country’s most significant surveillance reform since 1978 two years after NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations to the Guardian

NYT Op-Ed: Edward Snowden, "The World Says No to Surveillance"

Image courtesy of  The New York Times

Image courtesy of The New York Times

Yet the balance of power is beginning to shift. We are witnessing the emergence of a post-terror generation, one that rejects a worldview defined by a singular tragedy. For the first time since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, we see the outline of a politics that turns away from reaction and fear in favor of resilience and reason. With each court victory, with every change in the law, we demonstrate facts are more convincing than fear. As a society, we rediscover that the value of a right is not in what it hides, but in what it protects.
— Edward Snowden

The Diplomat: Zachary keck, "Yes, Edward Snowden is a traitor"

“The reason why I believed from the beginning that Snowden was a traitor was not because of the information he had been leaking but the manner in which he had done it. In my view, a true whistleblower would have first pursued legal avenues for reining in the NSA, such as seeking out sympathetic members of Congress.
— Zachary Keck

The Guardian Opinion: Shami Chakrabarti, "Let me be clear – Edward Snowden is a Hero"


Image courtesy of  The Guardian

Image courtesy of The Guardian

So let me be completely clear: Edward Snowden is a hero. Saying so does not make me an apologist for terror – it makes me a firm believer in democracy and the rule of law. Whether you are with or against Liberty in the debate about proportionate surveillance, Anderson must be right to say that the people and our representatives should know about capabilities and practices built and conducted in our name.
— Shami Chakrabarti

Last Week Tonight: John Oliver Interviews Edward Snowden in Russia

In this satirical interview, John Oliver discovers that the public may not know the full extent of what Snowden's leak entailed.