UPDATE 1:06 PM EDT: Snowden wrapped up the Q&A with the following statement:
Thanks to everyone for their support, and remember that just because you are not the target of a surveillance program does not make it okay. The US Person / foreigner distinction is not a reasonable substitute for individualized suspicion, and is only applied to improve support for the program. This is the precise reason that NSA provides Congress with a special immunity to its surveillance.
UPDATE 1:05 PM EDT: Snowden responds to the reaction to his leaks, saying he is disappointed that the focus has shifted from secret surveillance programs to his personal life. “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,” he wrote.
UPDATE 1:02 PM EDT: Snowden said that the experiences of past whistle-blowers who have been treated harshly by the government will not discourage people like himself from also blowing the whistle on government wrongdoing.
Binney, Drake, Kiriakou, and Manning are all examples of how overly-harsh responses to public-interest whistle-blowing only escalate the scale, scope, and skill involved in future disclosures. Citizens with a conscience are not going to ignore wrong-doing simply because they'll be destroyed for it: the conscience forbids it. Instead, these draconian responses simply build better whistleblowers.
On the issue of prosecuting whistleblowers, Snowden called on President Obama to step back from the abyss “rather than leaping forward into it.” He also said Obama should, upon leaving office, establish a tradition of transparency “by appointing a special investigator to review the policies of their years in office for any wrongdoing.”
UPDATE 12:43 PM EDT: Snowden called speculation that he might sell documents to the Chinese government in exchange for asylum a “predictable smear” intended to distract people from the U.S. government's misconduct and charged that American media has “a knee-jerk ‘RED CHINA!’ reaction to anything involving HK or the PRC.” Responding to a question on whether he has or will sell secrets in exchange for asylum, he continued, “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.”
UPDATE 12:32 PM EDT: Since the leaks first came out, Snowden’s made the eyebrow-raising assertion that an analyst such as himself as the “authorities to wiretap anyone, from you, or your accountant, to a federal judge, to even the President if I had a personal email.” Snowden elaborated about this point, essentially saying the protections in place are too lax to stop anyone trying to snoop from doing so.
“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,” he wrote. “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.”
Update 4: Edward Snowden is not impressed with internet companies including Facebook and Google and their alleged compliance with the government’s internet surveillance program, called PRISM, which Snowden’s leaks revealed. “They are legally compelled to comply and maintain their silence in regard to specifics of the program, but that does not comply (sic) them from ethical obligation,” Snowden wrote. “If for example Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Apple refused to provide this cooperation with the Intelligence Community, what do you think the government would do? Shut them down?”
Update 3: Since the Snowden’s leaks were first published in the Guardian newspaper, questions have swirled about how much access Snowden had as a contractor at the National Security Agency. The leaks themselves raised questions about the security of sensitive national intelligence information. Snowden declined to give away too much today, but did offer this much about "direct access" to classified information:
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. Additionally, audits are cursory, incomplete, and easily fooled by fake justifications. For at least GCHQ, the number of audited queries is only 5% of those performed.
Update 2: Snowden clarified the discrepancy between having acknowledged that he earned $200,000 per year when his last employer, contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, said he made less. “The statement I made about earnings was that $200,000 was my 'career high" salary,'" Snowden wrote. “I had to take pay cuts in the course of pursuing specific work. Booz was not the most I've been paid.”
Update 1: Although Iceland has shown a willingness to provide asylum to Snowden, the leaker explained that he thought it going to Iceland would have been riskier than Hong Kong. “Leaving the US was an incredible risk, as NSA employees must declare their foreign travel 30 days in advance and are monitored,” Snowden wrote. “There was a distinct possibility I would be interdicted en route, so I had to travel with no advance booking to a country with the cultural and legal framework to allow me to work without being immediately detained. Hong Kong provided that.” Iceland could be pushed harder, quicker, before the public could have a chance to make their feelings known, and I would not put that past the current US administration.”
Edward Snowden, who confessed to leaking classified documents about the United States’ governments surveillance operations, declined during a Q&A Monday to say how many more documents will be revealed or how many reporters had them. But he did say that the “US Government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me.”
Snowden began answering questions during a Q&A forum at the Gaurdian newspaper, with questions coming in through comments and on Twitter.
Snowden defended Pfc. Bradley Manning, who is currently in his third week of court martial proceedings in which he is being charged with aiding the enemy for leaking documents to WikiLeaks. Snowden also defended WikiLeaks’ work.
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.
This post will be updated as Snowden answers more questions.
Pema Levy is a senior politics reporter. Before joining the International Business Times, Pema covered the 2012 elections at Talking Points Memo and wrote about politics at...