Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Free State Project: Edward Snowden Interview on Apple vs. FBI, Privacy, the NSA, and More...

Published on February 25, 2016

"There's a very real difference between allegiance to country–allegiance to people–than allegiance to state, which is what nationalism today is really more about," says Edward Snowden. On February 20, the whistleblowing cybersecurity expert addressed a wide range of questions during an in-depth interview with Reason's Nick Gillespie at Liberty Forum, a gathering of the Free State Project (FSP) in Manchester, New Hampshire.

FSP seeks to move 20,000 people over the next five years to New Hampshire, where they will secure "liberty in our lifetime" by affecting the political, economic, and cultural climate of the state. Over 1,900 members have already migrated to the state and their impact is already being felt. Among their achievements to date:

getting 15 of their brethren in the state House, challenging anti-ridehail laws, fighting in court for outre religious liberty, winning legal battles over taping cops, being mocked by Colbert for heroically paying off people's parking meters, hosting cool anything goes festivals for libertarians, nullifying pot juries, and inducing occasional pants-wetting absurd paranoia in local statists.

Snowden's cautionary tale about the the dangers of state surveillance wasn't lost on his audience of libertarians and anarchists who reside in the "Live Free or Die" state. He believes that technology has given rise to unprecedented freedom for individuals around the world—but he says so from an undisclosed location in authoritarian Russia.

And he reminds us that governments also have unprecedented potential to surveil their populations at a moment's notice, without anyone ever realizing what's happening.

"They know more about us than they ever have in the history of the United States," Snowden warns. "They're excusing themselves from accountability to us at the same time they're trying to exert greater power over us."

In the midst of a fiercely contested presidential race, Snowden remains steadfast in his distrust of partisan politics and declined to endorse any particular candidate or party, or even to label his beliefs. "I do see sort of a clear distinction between people who have a larger faith in liberties and rights than they do in states and institutions," he grants. "And this would be sort of the authoritarian/libertarian axis in the traditional sense. And I do think it’s clear that if you believe in the progressive liberal tradition, which is that people should have greater capability to act freely, to make their own choices, to enjoy a better and freer life over the progression of sort of human life, you’re going to be pushing away from that authoritarian axis at all times."

Snowden drews laughs when asked if he was eligible to vote via absentee ballot. "This is still a topic research," he deadpans.

But he stresses that the U.S. government can win back trust and confidence through rigorous accountability to citizens and by living up to the ideals on which the country was founded. "We don’t want Russia or China or North Korea or Iran or France or Germany or Brazil or any other country in the world to hold us up as an example for why we should be narrowing the boundaries of liberty around the world instead of expanding them," says Snowden.

Runs about 50 minutes.

Go here for full transcript, downloadable versions, and more links and videos:

Produced by Todd Krainin and Nick Gillespie. Cameras by Meredith Bragg and Krainin.


0:00 - Edward Snowden, welcome to New Hampshire. Meet the Free State Project.

0:53 - Apple vs. the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Why should strong encryption be legal?

5:02 - Is privacy dead? Should we just get over it?

10:48 - What would a legal and effective government surveillance program look like?

14:53 - Could we have stopped the slide into mass surveillance? Shouldn't we have seen it coming?

19:04 - How can government earn back the trust and confidence of the American people?

21:40 - What's wrong with our political parties?

24:27 - What are Snowden's political beliefs? Is he a libertarian?

26:27 - How did Snowden educate himself? Is he helped or hurt by his lack of formal education?

28:48 - Why did Snowden see bulk surveillance differently than his NSA co-workers?

33:03 - Was the NSA involved in gathering evidence against Ross Ulbricht?

35:39 - Will the government eventually give up fighting internet commerce? Or will they just change tactics?

37:32 - How can Snowden advocate freedom from a place like Russia?

41:00 - How should we teach children about the Internet?

43:43 - Under what conditions would Snowden return to the United States?


Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said Edward Snowden was defending Americans' freedoms when he leaked classified information about the National Security Agency's intelligence gathering.

Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden should be spared a long prison sentence or "permanent exile" for leaking classified material, independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont said Monday.

"The information disclosed by Edward Snowden has been extremely important in allowing Congress and the American people to understand the degree to which the NSA has abused its authority and violated our constitutional rights," Sanders said in a statement. "On the other hand, there is no debate that Mr. Snowden violated an oath and committed a crime.

"In my view," Sanders continued, "the interests of justice would be best served if our government granted him some form of clemency or a plea agreement that would spare him a long prison sentence or permanent exile from the country whose freedoms he cared enough about to risk his own freedom."

Sanders' call for leniency for Snowden, who is in exile in Russia, follows editorials in the New York Times and elsewhere saying Snowden deserves clemency for breaking the law by disclosing the scope and extent of government snooping. On Sunday, Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a possible 2016 presidential contender, said Snowden doesn't deserve the death penalty or life in prison.

The NSA's widespread surveillance has included the collection of phone, Internet and e-mail data on millions of Americans and others, including some foreign government leaders. The NSA's work has been under scrutiny since the summer, when Snowden leaked documents exposing the agency's programs.

He has received temporary asylum in Russia and is facing a federal indictment and a potentially lengthy prison sentence if he returns to the United States.

U.S. officials have said the NSA's approach is a necessary and constitutional tactic to fight terrorists and keep America safe. Critics counter that the NSA has gone too far. Courts have issued conflicting rulings.

Last week, Sanders asked the NSA whether the agency has spied on Congress. In its response Saturday, the agency did not deny doing so, saying, "Members of Congress have the same privacy protections as all U.S. persons."


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