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Snowden: 'I am still working for the NSA ... to improve it'

'Mission accomplished', leaker tells Washington Post

Sign outside the National Security Agency HQ

Edward Snowden believes he is “still working for the NSA right now” and that his actions in recent months don't constitute treason but an effort “to improve the NSA”, according to an interview in The Washington Post.

Snowden's thinking is that he did not set out to “bring down the NSA” but that his theft of and distribution of documents will help to refocus the agency on its true purpose. He therefore told the Post that the NSA “are the only ones who don’t realize” he's still working for the agency.

Here's a few of Snowden's more interesting quotes from the interview:

  • “If I defected at all, I defected from the government to the public.”
  • “All I wanted was for the public to be able to have a say in how they are governed. That is a milestone we left a long time ago. Right now, all we are looking at are stretch goals.”
  • “For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished. I already won. As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated. Because, remember, I didn’t want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself.”
  • “That whole question — who elected you? — inverts the model. They elected me. The overseers. [US Senator] Dianne Feinstein elected me when she asked softball questions. [US Congressman and Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence member] Mike Rogers elected me when he kept these programs hidden. . . . The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court elected me when they decided to legislate from the bench on things that were far beyond the mandate of what that court was ever intended to do.”
  • “I don’t care whether you’re the pope or Osama bin Laden. As long as there’s an individualized, articulable, probable cause for targeting these people as legitimate foreign intelligence, that’s fine. I don’t think it’s imposing a ridiculous burden by asking for probable cause. Because, you have to understand, when you have access to the tools the NSA does, probable cause falls out of trees.”

Whether Snowden's declaration that his mission is accomplished means he will continue to release documents isn't disclosed, but it is generally held he has many, many more items of interest in his possession. If he intends to carry on, there will be plenty more embarrassment to heap on the recent battering for RSA's reputation, the the kink he put in US/Germany relations or the diplomatic spat between Australia and Indonesia sparked by previous leaks. The latter has even created a domestic debate about the role of public broadcasting in Australia, a widening ripple that presumably goes well beyond Snowden's original intentions.

While Snowden's intended targets have reacted to the waves he's sent their way, sometimes in ways that support his goals of reducing domestic surveillance, most nations are toughing things out with a “we spy because we need to” line. The Post's piece has a lot of sympathy for that position. Do you? ®

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