From “Edward Snowden interview – the edited transcript“.
‘Why he did not go straight to Ecuador rather than Hong Kong
So this is the thing that nobody realises. They think there was some masterplan to get out safely and avoid all consequences. That’s what Hong Kong was all about. But it wasn’t. The purpose of my mission was to get the information to journalists. Once I had, that I was done.
That’s why I was so peaceful afterwards, because it didn’t matter what happened … Going to Ecuador and getting asylum there, that would have been great … And that would have just been a bonus. The fact that I’ve ended up so secure is entirely by accident. And as you said, it probably shouldn’t have happened. If we have anybody to thank, it’s the state department. The whole key is, the state department’s the one who put me in Russia.’
‘The relationship between the NSA and telecom and internet companies
Unusually hidden even from people who worked for these agencies are the details of the financial arrangements between [the] government and the telecommunication service providers. And we have to ask ourselves, why is that? Why are their details of how they’re being paid to collaborate with [the] government protected at a much greater level than for example the names of human agents operating undercover, embedded with terrorist groups?
So the way Prism [the program that deals with the relationship between the NSA and the internet companies] works is agencies are provided with direct access to the contents of the server at these private companies. That doesn’t mean the companies can, or the intelligence agencies can, let themselves in. What it means is Facebook is allowing the government to get copies of your Facebook messages, your Skype conversations, your Gmail mailboxes, things like that.
It distinguishes it from where the government is creating its own access – so called upstream operations – where they sort of tap the backbones where these communications cross and they try to take them in transit. Instead they go to the company and they say: “You’re going to give us this. You’re going to give us that. You’re going to give us that.” And the company gives them all of this information in a cooperative relationship.
If Facebook is going to hand over all of your messages, all of your wall posts, all of your private photos, all of your private details from their server the government has no need to intercept all of the communications that constitute those private records.‘
I think it’s unfortunate that we see in a number of states – and this is particularly well represented in western Europe – [that] the priorities of governments seem to be very distinct from the desires of the public. I think it’s unfortunate when, for example, in Germany evidence has revealed that the NSA is spying on millions of German citizens … and that’s not a scandal. But when Angela Merkel’s cell phone is listened [in] on and she herself is made a victim, suddenly it changes relations.
We shouldn’t elevate senior officials. We shouldn’t elevate leaders above the average citizen because, really, who is it that they’re working for? You know the public interest is the national interest. You know the priorities of the NSA should not take precedence over the needs of the German population.‘
‘The Boston marathon bombing
Despite the fact that the communications of everybody in America were currently being intercepted, they didn’t catch the Boston bombers, despite the fact that the Russian intelligence service specifically warned the FBI that these individuals were known to be associated with Islamic terror groups.
We didn’t actually fully investigate them, we just made a cursory visit and went back to all of our keyboards looking at everybody’s emails and text messages.
The question of the Boston bombings is not what kind of mass surveillance do we put the whole of society under to prevent every possible perceivable crime that might happen in future, the question is why didn’t we follow up when … we were specifically warned about these individuals, and they then later turned out to be a real threat. What we have learned in case studies of terrorism over the last decade … is that almost every terrorist act that is uncovered, almost everyone who’s convicted, successfully prosecuted, put in jail, every plot that is disrupted, is not a product of mass surveillance, it’s not a product of the kind of indiscriminate surveillance we see today. They’re all products of targeted surveillance, traditional surveillance, the kind of boots on the ground, investigate and learn, done by real investigators interviewing real people and following specifically justified leads that occurred as a process of investigation. No single terrorist act, including the Boston bombs, was ever caught as a result of mass surveillance in the United States. And those numbers are similar around the world as I understand it.
It seems reasonable to expect when we have clear evidence that these programs are ineffective, we should take resources out of ineffective mass surveillance programs and re-allocate them toward the sort of traditional targeted surveillance that’s been shown to be effective for hundreds of years.‘
The entire transcript can be read here.