Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who leaked information about mass surveillance by the agency, appeared on German public television for an interview. The interview revealed that, despite government officials expressing a desire to murder him in online venues, he sleeps well and feels that he did what he needed to do.
Snowden was asked about President Obama’s review of the security apparatus and the proposed reforms. He said that it’s another instance of the government relying on insiders who are predisposed to see the programs as positive. Information leaked by Snowden and Snowden himself in the interview revealed the programs are very large, much larger than the phone metadata gathering program that the government has been trying to address as the sole concern.
President Obama’s recent speech on the issue did not address the major concerns of data companies. Those companies were concerned, among other things, about the government deliberately trying to weaken encryption and finding flaws in operating systems, cataloging them and then using them to exploit computers and gather data. The president’s speech did nothing to address those issues.
The president did, however, point out that many of the companies that complained about government data gathering use similar practices themselves, but use it for marketing purposes instead of intelligence purposes.
Nonetheless, information published about the drama behind the scenes at the government reveals a pattern of the panel advising that the most intrusive programs be halted, with the intelligence community being reluctant, at the very least, to do so.
Online venues had published reports where government officials, speaking under protection of anonymity—rather ironic, in this case—said that they would like to assassinate Snowden. Snowden didn’t express any fear of this, though the threats are certainly credible in the sense that the US government is no stranger to targeted killings.
To this point, the government has expressed zero understanding of the ethical dilemma raised by Snowden’s revelations. Actually assassinating Snowden would, no doubt, turn him from a leaker into a martyr of sorts and permanently cement in the public consciousness the image of the NSA and the intelligence apparatus as a whole as an unaccountable group of agencies that operate beyond the laws that they are supposed to protect.
Snowden is currently living under asylum granted by Russia. More information about the spying programs has been coming out on a fairly regular basis, as have government efforts to defuse the scandal.