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Spiegel Online: Interview with Edward Snowden

POSTED BY: 1KIKI
UPDATED: Sunday, September 15, 2019 16:21
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Sunday, September 15, 2019 4:21 PM

1KIKI

Goodbye, kind world (George Monbiot) - In common with all those generations which have contemplated catastrophe, we appear to be incapable of understanding what confronts us.


Snowden: I knew that I was using tools of mass surveillance. But it had been all very abstract. And suddenly you actually see a person looking at you through the screen. They don't know they're looking at you, of course. But you realize that, as people are reading, we are reading them. And these systems had gotten this far without anyone knowing. It took forever for me to develop a sense of skepticism. But once it began bit by bit, it sort of continued to develop because you're more aware. You're looking more for contradictions in what your employers tell you and what they actually do.


https://www.spiegel.de/international/world/interview-with-edward-snowd
en-about-his-story-a-1286605.html


'If I Happen to Fall out of a Window, You Can Be Sure I Was Pushed'

In a DER SPIEGEL interview, whistleblower Edward Snowden talks about how he managed to mislead the most powerful intelligence agency in the world, about his life in Russia and about why the internet must be reinvented.

Book a suite in a luxury hotel in Moscow, send the room number encrypted to a pre-determined mobile number and then wait for a return message indicating a precise time: Meeting Edward Snwoden is pretty much exactly how children imagine the grand game of espionage is played.

But then, on Monday, there he was, standing in our room on the first floor of the Hotel Metropol, as pale and boyish-looking as the was when the world first saw him in June 2013. For the last six years, he has been living in Russian exile. The U.S. has considered him to be an enemy of the state, right up there with Julian Assange, ever since he revealed, with the help of journalists, the full scope of the surveillance system operated by the National Security Agency (NSA). For quite some time, though, he remained silent about how he smuggled the secrets out of the country and what his personal motivations were.

Now, though, he has written a book about it. It will be published worldwide on September 17 under the title "Permanent Record." Ahead of publication, Snowden spent over two-and-a-half hours patiently responding to questions from DER SPIEGEL.

DER SPIEGEL: Mr. Snowden, you always said: "I am not the story." But now you've written 432 pages about yourself. Why?

Edward Snowden: Because I think it's more important than ever to explain systems of mass surveillance and mass manipulation to the public. And I can't explain how these systems came to be without explaining my role in helping to build them.

DER SPIEGEL: Wasn't it just as important four or even six years ago?

Snowden: Four years ago, Barack Obama was president. Four years ago, Boris Johnson wasn't around and the AfD (Germany's right-wing populist party Alternative for Germany) was still kind of a joke. But now in 2019, no one is laughing. When you look around the world, when you look at the rising factionalization of society, when you see this new wave of authoritarianism sweeping over many countries: Everywhere political classes and commercial classes are realizing they can use technology to influence the world on a new scale that was not previously available. We are seeing our systems coming under attack.

DER SPIEGEL: What systems?

Snowden: The political system, the legal system, the social system. And we have the proclivity to think that if we get rid of the people we don't like, the problem is solved. We go: "Oh, it's Donald Trump. Oh, it's Boris Johnson. Oh, it's the Russians" But Donald Trump is not the problem. Donald Trump is the product of the problem.

DER SPIEGEL: A system failure.

Snowden: Yes. And that's why I'm writing this book now.

DER SPIEGEL: You write that you wanted to tell the truth. What was the biggest lie people told about you?

Snowden: Oh, God, there's a zillion of those. The biggest was ?

DER SPIEGEL: ? that you are a Russian spy?

Snowden: Not even that one, but that it was my plan to end up in Russia. Even the NSA admits that Russia wasn't my intended destination. But people repeat it because it's guilt by association. It's part of this typical warfare, that is going on at the moment. The facts don't matter. What you know is less important than what you feel. It's corrosive to democracy. Increasingly we cannot agree about things. If you can't even acknowledge what is happening, how can you have a discussion about why it is happening?

DER SPIEGEL: While writing, did you discover any truths about yourself that you didn't like?

Snowden: The most unflattering thing is to realize just how naïve and credulous I was and how that could make me into a tool of systems that would use my skills for an act of global harm. The class of which I am a part of, the global technological community, was for the longest time apolitical. We have this history of thinking: "We're going to make the world better."

DER SPIEGEL: Was that your motivation when you entered the world of espionage?

Snowden: Entering the world of espionage sounds so grand. I just saw an enormous landscape of opportunities because the government in its post-9/11 spending blitz was desperate to hire anybody who had high-level technical skills and a clearance. And I happened to have both. It was weird to be just a kid and be brought into CIA headquarters, put in charge of the entire Washington metropolitan area's network.

DER SPIEGEL: Was it not also fascinating to be able to invade pretty much everybody's life via state-sponsored hacking?

Snowden: You have to remember, in the beginning I didn't even know mass surveillance was a thing because I worked for the CIA, which is a human intelligence organization. But when I was sent back to NSA headquarters and my very last position to directly work with a tool of mass surveillance, there was a guy who was supposed to be teaching me. And sometimes he would spin around in his chair, showing me nudes of whatever target's wife he's looking at. And he's like: "Bonus!"

DER SPIEGEL: Was there a turning point for you?

Snowden: No, it happened over years. But I remember one specific moment: In my last position I was an infrastructure analyst. There are basically two forms of mass surveillance analysts at the NSA. There are persona analysts, all they do is read people's Facebook traffic, their chats, their messaging. Infrastructure analysts are frequently used for counterhacking. We're trying to see what others have done to us, without having names or numbers. Instead of tracking people, you're tracking devices.

DER SPIEGEL: Like a public computer?

Snowden: We would, for instance, track a computer in a library and turn on the camera to actually watch the users. And you would record it and store the video file away in case it ends up being interesting later. We've got a ton of like up-nose pictures from Iraqi cybercafés. So somehow I came across a recording of this guy who was an engineer somewhere in Southeast Asia and had been applying for a job in some university that was suspected of being related to a nuclear program or a cyberattack. I don't even remember because there's always some justification. And this man had his child on his lap, which was innocently banging on the keyboard.

DER SPIEGEL: That's when you had a prick of conscience?

Snowden: I knew that I was using tools of mass surveillance. But it had been all very abstract. And suddenly you actually see a person looking at you through the screen. They don't know they're looking at you, of course. But you realize that, as people are reading, we are reading them. And these systems had gotten this far without anyone knowing. It took forever for me to develop a sense of skepticism. But once it began bit by bit, it sort of continued to develop because you're more aware. You're looking more for contradictions in what your employers tell you and what they actually do.


read the rest at the der Spiegel link

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