NEW YORK (MainStreet) "I took an oath to support the Constitution, and I felt the Constitution was violated on a massive scale," Edward Snowden said in a live video conference today. "What I wanted to do was inform the public so they could make a decision about what we should do."
Snowden, the fugitive former National Security Agency contractor who has rocked the surveillance world with his revelations, conducted his first live interview from Russia as a part of the South by Southwest Interactive Festival, the technology and entertainment conference in Austin, Texas.
The event, co-hosted by ACLU Principal Technologist Chris Soghoian and Ben Wizner, the director of the ACLU's Speech, Privacy, and Technology Program, was held in a packed auditorium, with two overflow rooms set up for the event. An estimated 7,000 people were in attendance, with thousands more viewing the conversation on a live video stream.
In addressing privacy and security issues, Snowden said the NSA was "setting fire to the future of the Internet" and encouraged consumers and developers to develop a more proactive approach in protecting their data.
"So many of the services we're relying on are not secure by default," he said. "We need to make them secure out of the box. That means that developers are going to have to think about security early on," he said. The ACLU's Chris Soghoian noted that computer encryption makes bulk surveillance too expensive and that the purpose in pushing for NSA spying restrictions isn't to stop the government from going after legitimate targets.
"The goal is to make it so that they can't spy on innocent people," Soghoian said. "If we start using encrypted services, it becomes too expensive to spy on everyone, and they'll have to go after the people who really matter."
Snowden agreed, saying, "Encryption does work. It's the defense against the dark arts in the digital realm. The US government still has no idea what documents I have because encryption works."
Knowing now the circumstances he has faced, Snowden was asked if would repeat his disclosure.
"Absolutely," he said. "Regardless of what happens to me, this is something we had a right to."
--Written by Hal M. Bundrick for MainStreet