The revelations from Snowden, a former NSA contractor, about the American government’s surveillance of its citizens and allies have generated fierce debate over intelligence-gathering practices.
Here are the five key takeaways from the interview, the first Snowden has given in person since he arrived in Russia in June. Snowden says …
“For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished. I already won,” Snowden told the Washington Post’s Barton Gellman in Moscow. “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.”
Snowden left his job in Hawaii with the NSA contract firm Booz Allen Hamilton and fled to Hong Kong in May, taking with him a hoard of secret information about intelligence programs. He shared the files with Gellman and journalists from The Guardian, a British newspaper.
The ensuing articles about how the NSA hoovers up vast amounts of phone and Internet data about American citizens sparked uproar, with Snowden described as both a hero and a traitor. Many more articles about other controversial aspects of U.S. surveillance have followed and Snowden has said there’s plenty more information still to be revealed.
His actions have had clear consequences.
, including greater judicial oversight and more public transparency in the collection of data. Key American allies, like Germany and Brazil, have publicly condemned U.S. surveillance of their leaders.
“All I wanted was for the public to be able to have a say in how they are governed,” Snowden said. “That is a milestone we left a long time ago. Right now, all we are looking at are stretch goals.”
Snowden has so far managed to dodge the U.S. government’s attempts to bring him back to American to face charges of espionage and theft of government property. And he’s not taking any chances as he lives under asylum in Russia.
Gellman reports that during more than 14 hours of conversations in Moscow, Snowden didn’t once “part the curtains or step outside.”
Snowden, 30, described his life as that of an “indoor cat.” He said he doesn’t drink alcohol and lives off ramen noodles and chips.
“It has always been really difficult to get me to leave the house,” he told Gellman. “I just don’t have a lot of needs. . . . Occasionally there’s things to go do, things to go see, people to meet, tasks to accomplish. But it’s really got to be goal-oriented, you know.
Otherwise, as long as I can sit down and think and write and talk to somebody, that’s more meaningful to me than going out and looking at landmarks.”
He has had continuous access to the Internet and talks to journalists and his lawyers on a daily basis, The Post reported.
People who visit him bring him books, but he doesn’t read them, preferring to get his information from the Internet.
Gellman reported that it was unclear to what degree Snowden was under surveillance by Russian authorities, saying that “no retinue” accompanied Snowden and that he didn’t see anybody else nearby.
Snowden said some other people who worked for the NSA’s surveillance system had misgivings about the activities.
He told Gellman that he raised concerns with colleagues and with superiors in the NSA’s Technology Directorate and the NSA Threat Operations Center’s regional base in Hawaii.
His coworkers were often “astonished to learn we are collecting more in the United States on Americans than we are on Russians in Russia,” Snowden told The Post.
A lot of his colleagues were disturbed by what they heard, Snowden said, and several asked him not to tell them any more.
“I asked these people, ‘What do you think the public would do if this was on the front page?’ ” he said, according to The Post.
“How is that not reporting it? How is that not raising it?” he said in response to criticism that he circumvented the NSA’s internal channels for disagreement.
The NSA said in a statement to The Post that it had “not found any evidence to support Mr. Snowden’s contention that he brought these matters to anyone’s attention.”