Snowden Q&A: Obama, Privacy, and His Own Future

Edward Snowden, former contractor with the U.S. National Security Agency, participated in a live online interview Thursday, answering questions regarding privacy, President Barack Obama’s NSA announcement, and his own future going forward. Snowden, who was behind the leaked NSA documents, sparked the recent U.S. and international privacy concerns over intelligence surveillance.

Unsurprisingly, a number of the questions dealt with where the line falls between the importance of personal privacy and the necessities of security. “Not all spying is bad. The biggest problem we face right now is the new technique of indiscriminate mass surveillance, where governments are seizing billions and billions and billions of innocents’ communication every single day,” said Snowden in the interview. “When we’re sophisticated enough to be able to break into any device in the world we want to (up to and including Angela Merkel’s phone, if reports are to be believed), there’s no excuse to be wasting our time collecting the call records of grandmothers in Missouri,” he said.

He fielded queries on his Free Snowden website regarding President Obama’s  January 17 announcement of how the NSA would be changing moving forward. In the speech, Obama outlined concerns for both privacy and security, listing items to be put to congress and changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, as well as a number of other policy changes and future plans.

Just as ardent civil libertarians recognize the need for robust intelligence capabilities, those with responsibilities for our national security readily acknowledge the potential for abuse as intelligence capabilities advance and more and more private information is digitized,” said the president in his announcement. “Those who are troubled by our existing programs are not interested in repeating the tragedy of 9/11, and those who defend these programs are not dismissive of civil liberties.”