Edward Snowden, NSA leaker, answers Guardian reader questions

NSA leader Edward Snowden participated in an online chat or sorts on Monday, says the Guardian newspaper. There’s no way of verifying it was Snowden behind the keyboard, of course. You can read NBCNews.com’s coverage of the chat, by Tracy Connor, here. You can see the original chat page at The Guardian.  Here’s the highlights as I see them.  My words in italics, his in quotes.

Regarding: Isn’t he just helping China?
“I have had no contact with the Chinese government. Just like with the Guardian and the Washington Post, I only work with journalists.”
“Ask yourself: if I were a Chinese spy, why wouldn’t I have flown directly into Beijing? I could be living in a palace petting a phoenix by now. (He properly used subjunctive mood; a GED student? Hmm)

Is he succeeding?
“Initially I was very encouraged. Unfortunately, the mainstream media now seems far more interested in what I said when I was 17 or what my girlfriend looks like rather than, say, the largest program of suspicionless surveillance in human history.”

What would he say to other potential whistle blowers?
“This country is worth dying for.”

Should people bother trying to use privacy tools (geek question, and he’s right)
“Encryption works. Properly implemented strong crypto systems are one of the few things that you can rely on. Unfortunately, endpoint security is so terrifically weak that NSA can frequently find ways around it.”

Says policy is a weak way to protect privacy
“US Persons do enjoy limited policy protections (and again, it’s important to understand that policy protection is no protection – policy is a one-way ratchet that only loosens) and one very weak technical protection – a near-the-front-end filter at our ingestion points. The filter is constantly out of date, is set at what is euphemistically referred to as the “widest allowable aperture,” and can be stripped out at any time. Even with the filter, US comms get ingested, and even more so as soon as they leave the border. Your protected communications shouldn’t stop being protected communications just because of the IP they’re tagged with.”

Drops hints that more in coming, answers the “content” question
“More detail on how direct NSA’s accesses are is coming, but in general, the reality is this: if an NSA, FBI, CIA, DIA, etc analyst has access to query raw SIGINT databases, they can enter and get results for anything they want. Phone number, email, user id, cell phone handset id (IMEI), and so on – it’s all the same. The restrictions against this are policy based, not technically based, and can change at any time.”

Says he wasn’t criticizing Bradley Manning, even though it sounded like that then he said he carefully selected documents to be leaked
“No, I’m not. Wikileaks is a legitimate journalistic outlet and they carefully redacted all of their releases in accordance with a judgment of public interest. The unredacted release of cables was due to the failure of a partner journalist to control a passphrase. However, I understand that many media outlets used the argument that “documents were dumped” to smear Manning, and want to make it clear that it is not a valid assertion here.”

About Bob Sullivan 1334 Articles
BOB SULLIVAN is a veteran journalist and the author of four books, including the 2008 New York Times Best-Seller, Gotcha Capitalism, and the 2010 New York Times Best Seller, Stop Getting Ripped Off! His latest, The Plateau Effect, was published in 2013, and as a paperback, called Getting Unstuck in 2014. He has won the Society of Professional Journalists prestigious Public Service award, a Peabody award, and The Consumer Federation of America Betty Furness award, and been given Consumer Action’s Consumer Excellence Award.

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