Former contractor and admitted NSA secrets leaker Edward Snowden is not about to apologize for his actions. A recent, secret 14-hour interview with the Washington Post provides a number of fascinating insights into the man and his motivations in exposing the NSA’s massive data collection operation.
Edward Snowden: “I already won”
It’s not about him judging the NSA’s actions, Snowden told Post reporter Barton Gellman, “For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished. 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.”
Scale of NSA data collection
The documents gathered and leaked by Snowden clearly illustrated the monumental scale of the NSA data collection activities. According to information from the initial batches of leaked documents examined by The Guardian back in June, the agency was collecting data from emails, land-lines, cell phones… you name it, the NSA was tapping it. A slide from a leaked presentation described the NSA’s collection philosophy as “Order one of everything off the menu.”
Worse yet, despite their mandate as a foreign intelligence-gathering organization, a great deal of the NSA’s data collection activities were directed domestically, according to leaked documents.
Snowden had come to believe that the limited, nonpublic oversight by Congress and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was a “graveyard of judgment,” and that NSA leaders were manipulating the system. He also argued that all the walls of secrecy surrounding the agency’s actions prevented important and healthy public debate.
“You recognize that you’re going in blind, that there’s no model,” Snowden elaborated, admitting he had no idea if the majority of the public would agree with him.
“But when you weigh that against the alternative, which is not to act,” he said, “you realize that some analysis is better than no analysis. Because even if your analysis proves to be wrong, the marketplace of ideas will bear that out. If you look at it from an engineering perspective, an iterative perspective, it’s clear that you have to try something rather than do nothing.”