Former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden made light of Republican Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 U.S. presidential election on Monday during an internet conference in Stockholm.
“Donald Trump is just the president. It’s an important position. But it’s one of many,” Snowden reportedly said at the conference speaking via a video link from Moscow where the 33-year-old fugitive has been living since 2013.
Snowden is wanted in the U.S. under the Espionage Act for leaking classified information, which revealed that the NSA had been spying on Americans using the mass surveillance programs the U.S. had set up after 9/11.
Trump, who in 2013 called Snowden a “terrible traitor,” hinted that the former NSA contractor should be killed. However, the real estate mogul said later that he would become a “major fan” if Snowden released information pertaining to President Barack Obama.
In light of the Trump administration stepping up its efforts to arrest Snowden, the whistleblower on Monday defended his decision to leak classified information.
“I don’t care. The reality here is that yes, Donald Trump has appointed a new director of the Central Intelligence Agency who uses me as a specific example to say that, look, dissidents should be put to death,” he said. “But if I get hit by a bus, or a drone, or dropped off an airplane tomorrow, you know what? It doesn’t actually matter that much to me, because I believe in the decisions that I’ve already made.”
He also urged Americans not to be disheartened over Trump’s victory. “Just as oil companies are starting to face criticism, protests and divestment of investors as a result of the impact of their industry on global climate, we should have the same understanding of the consequences of these companies’ operations on our digital climate,” Snowden said.
Snowden said earlier that a Trump presidency raised more concerns of increased intrusiveness of domestic intelligence gathering.
“We are starting to substitute open government for sheer authoritarianism, a government based not upon the principle of informed consent granted by people who understand its activities but rather a trust in personalities, a trust in claims, a trust in the hope that they will do the right thing,” he said. “If government does actually win our trust, because they go for some years and they do operate in a way that we should support, what happens when it changes? This is kind of the challenge that we're facing today in the United States with the result of the last election.”