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Barack Obama The Guardian Edward Snowdon

'Mission accomplished,' says Snowden in 14-hour talks with Washington Post


By Noel Young, Correspondent

December 24, 2013 | 4 min read

Edward Joseph Snowden, the NSA leaker, has given more than 14 hours of interviews to the Washington Post and The Guardian, the first he has given since arriving in Moscow in June.

Snowden talks to the Washington Post

The Washington Post reporter says today: "At the appointed hour, alone, with a light crowd of locals and tourists. He cocked his arm for a handshake, then turned his shoulder to indicate a path. Before long he had guided his visitor to a secure space out of public view.”

Snowden did not part the curtains or step outside, said the Post. Late this spring, Snowden had supplied three journalists, including the Washington Post, with top-secret documents from the National Security Agency, where he worked as a contractor.

“Taken together, the revelations have brought to light a global surveillance system that cast off many of its historic restraints after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001,” said the Post, describing the agency’s “collection philosophy” as “Order one of everything off the menu.”

Six months after the first revelations appeared in The Washington Post and the Guardian, Snowden agreed to reflect at length on the roots and repercussions of his choice.

The Post said that Snowden offered vignettes from his intelligence career and from his recent life as “an indoor cat” in Russia. But he "consistently steered the conversation back to surveillance, democracy and the meaning of the documents he exposed."

“For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished,” he said. “I already won. As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated. Because, remember, I didn’t want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself.”

“All I wanted was for the public to be able to have a say in how they are governed,” he said. “That is a milestone we left a long time ago. Right now, all we are looking at are stretch goals.”

The Post reported: "By his own terms, Snowden succeeded beyond plausible ambition. Accustomed to watching without being watched, the NSA faces scrutiny it has not endured since the 1970s, or perhaps ever.”

The basic structure of the Internet itself is now in question, as Brazil and members of the European Union consider measures to keep their data away from U.S. territory and U.S. technology giants including Google, Microsoft and Yahoo take extraordinary steps.

On 16 December, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon described the NSA’s capabilities as “almost Orwellian” and said its bulk collection of U.S. domestic telephone records was probably unconstitutional.

The next day, in the Roosevelt Room, executives from telephone companies and Internet firms told President Obama that the NSA’s intrusion into their networks was a threat to the U.S. information economy. The following day, an advisory panel appointed by Obama recommended substantial new restrictions on the NSA, including an end to the domestic call-records program.

“This week is a turning point,” said Jesselyn Radack of the Government Accountability Project, one of Snowden’s legal advisers. “It has been just a cascade.”

Just before releasing the documents this spring, Snowden made a final review of the risks. He had overcome what he described at the time as a “selfish fear” of the consequences for himself.

“I said to you the only fear [left] is apathy — that people won’t care, that they won’t want change,” he recalled this month.

The documents leaked by Snowden compelled attention because they revealed to Americans a history they did not know they had, the Post reported.

Barack Obama The Guardian Edward Snowdon

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