NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has gone on the offensive against his critics in the US, accusing the mainstream media there of failing their audiences "for fear of being seen as unpatriotic and punished in the market."
In a rare interview, Snowden explained why he chose a UK journalist and a documentary filmmaker for his leaks.
In an encrypted e-mail correspondence with journalist Peter Maass, the former NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower presented his candid opinion of the US media and what finally persuaded him to go public on the NSA's worldwide surveillance program.
The heightened level of nationalism prevalent in the United States following the attacks of 9/11 precluded US media from engaging in any serious discussion on the excesses of government behavior for fear of seeming "unpatriotic," Snowden argued in the interview published in The New York Times -- his first since gaining temporary asylum in Russia.
"After 9/11, many of the most important news outlets in America abdicated their role as a check to power -- the journalistic responsibility to challenge the excesses of government -- for fear of being seen as unpatriotic and punished in the market during a period of heightened nationalism," the NY Times reported Snowden as saying.
The former CIA employee said this strategy by the American media establishment had "ended up costing the public dearly."
Snowden then revealed what led him to divulge his explosive information to Laura Poitras, the documentary filmmaker who served first as an intermediary between Snowden and Glenn Greenwald, an investigative journalist with The Guardian, and now with Maass.
"Laura and Glenn are among the few who reported fearlessly on controversial topics throughout this period, even in the face of withering personal criticism, and resulted in Laura specifically becoming targeted by the very programs involved in the recent disclosures," Snowden said.
Poitras "demonstrated the courage, personal experience and skill needed to handle what is probably the most dangerous assignment any journalist can be given -- reporting on the secret misdeeds of the most powerful government in the world," Snowden said in the NY Times interview, adding that those qualifications made her "an obvious choice."
Demonstrators hold up a placard in support of former US agent of the National Security Agency, Edward Snowden in front of Berlin's landmark Brandenburg Gate (AFP Photo/John Macdougall)
The interview then focused on what made Snowden, who arrived on May 20 in Hong Kong with details of the NSA's PRISM program, confident that he could place his trust in Poitras.
Snowden told Maass that he discovered Poitras was "more suspicious of me than I was of her, and I'm famously paranoid."
The former CIA employee continued:
"The combination of her experience and her exacting focus on detail and process gave her a natural talent for security, and that's a refreshing trait to discover in someone who is likely to come under intense scrutiny in the future, as normally one would have to work very hard to get them to take the risks seriously."Snowden revealed that working with Poitras allowed him to "open up without fearing the invested trust would be mishandled."
He then spoke at length on the subject of encrypted communications, specifically for journalists.
"I was surprised to realize that there were people in news organizations who didn't recognize any unencrypted message sent over the Internet is being delivered to every intelligence service in the world," he said.
In the wake of this year's disclosures, it should be clear that unencrypted journalist-source communication is "unforgivably reckless," Snowden added.
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