The second part of an interview National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden recorded with The Guardian"s Glenn Greenwald and documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras in Hong Kong a month or so ago has been posted.
The interview shows Snowden was well aware of how his whistleblowing on US government secret surveillance programs would be regarded. He said he would be charged with violating the Espionage Act and the government would also say, "I've aided our enemies in making them aware of these systems but that argument can be made against anybody who reveals information that points out mass surveillance systems because fundamentally they apply equally to ourselves as they do to our enemies."
It has been reported by media organizations that Snowden took the job as an NSA contractor so he could have access to documents. This has been construed as evidence that he engaged in a premeditated act of "stealing."
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Greenwald anticipated that this might be asked, apparently. He asked, "When you decided to enter this world, did you do so with the intention of weaseling your way in and becoming a mole so that you could one day undermine it with disclosures or what was your perspective and mindset about it at the time when you first got into this whole realm?"
Smiling, Snowden responded, "I joined the intelligence community when I was very young." He added that he "enlisted in the Army shortly after the invasion of Iraq" and "believed in the goodness of what we were doing.
"I believed in the nobility of our intentions to free oppressed people overseas but over time, over the length of my career, as I watched the news and I was increasingly was exposed to true information that had not been propagandized in the media," he realized he was actually part of an effort that was misleading to all citizens of the world.
In other words, according to this interview, he was not intending to steal any information from the United States government, as a multiple news reports have suggested.
Asked what led to the moment where he would engage in his act of whistleblowing he said, "I don't want to live in a world where everything that I say, everything I do, everyone I talk to, every expression of creativity or love or friendship is recorded. And that's not something I'm willing to support; it's not something I'm willing to do; and it's not something I'm willing to live under."
Snowden added that anyone who opposes this would have an "obligation to act in a way they can." He watched and waited. He hoped some figure in a position of leadership would act to "correct the excesses of government" but that was not happening.
Yesterday, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg had an opinion editorial published by the Washington Post on Snowden where he addresses what Snowden did and how he believes he made the right call by leaving the country.
"Many people compare Edward Snowden to me unfavorably for leaving the country and seeking asylum, rather than facing trial as I did. I don't agree. The country I stayed in was a different America, a long time ago," Ellsberg wrote.
He also suggested that Snowden would have suffered the same treatment and prosecution that Pfc. Bradley Manning, who disclosed US government documents to WikiLeaks, has faced:
I hope Snowden's revelations will spark a movement to rescue our democracy, but he could not be part of that movement had he stayed here. There is zero chance that he would be allowed out on bail if he returned now and close to no chance that, had he not left the country, he would have been granted bail. Instead, he would be in a prison cell like Bradley Manning, incommunicado.
He would almost certainly be confined in total isolation, even longer than the more than eight months Manning suffered during his three years of imprisonment before his trial began recently. The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Torture described Manning's conditions as "cruel, inhuman and degrading." (That realistic prospect, by itself, is grounds for most countries granting Snowden asylum, if they could withstand bullying and bribery from the United States.)
Liberal commentators like Jonathan Capehart, an MSNBC contributor, have argued that Snowden's act is not as honorable as Ellsberg's because he did not remain in the US and allow himself to be arrested. But had he remained he certainly would have been forced to remain in pretrial confinement after the government argued he would be a "flight risk" or a risk to national security if he was allowed to be free. He would not have been able to freely speak to the media, attend rallies or do public speaking engagements to build up any support among the public for what he did. And, again, as Ellsberg has made clear, America has changed.