Fugitive and former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden called “indiscriminate mass surveillance” of communications a “global problem” Thursday and urged the United States to take the lead in reforming the way governments collect and store bulk data.
“I think a person should be able to dial a number, make a purchase, send an SMS, write an email, or visit a website without having to think about what it’s going to look like on their permanent record,” Snowden said during an online question-and-answer session. “Particularly when we now have courts, reports from the federal government, and even statements from Congress making it clear these programs haven’t made us any more safe, we need to push back.”
The website freesnowden.is hosted the live event, which came less than a week after President Obama enumerated a series of reforms to the NSA. The digital event asked Twitter users to submit questions using an #AskSnowden hashtag.
Responding to a question from CNN anchor Jake Tapper, Snowden said that returning to the U.S. would be “the best resolution” for both him and the government but that current espionage laws mean there is “no chance to have a fair trial.”
Snowden, who is believed to still be living in Russia after earning temporary asylum there, has been busy trying to remain relevant in recent weeks. Last week the Freedom of the Press Foundation announced Snowden’s appointment to its board of directors, a group that already includes journalists Glenn Greenwald and filmmaker Laura Poitras. In December, Snowden declared in an interview with The Washington Post that he had “already accomplished” his mission.
Meanwhile, a new poll finds a majority of Americans believe the government should pursue a criminal case against Snowden.
Snowden was also asked whether it was “a shame” that the president outlined his NSA reforms before the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board publicly released its recommendations, which were released Thursday and called for an end to the NSA’s bulk collection of telephone records. Snowden said he thought Congress could not ignore the report “as it makes it clear there is no reason at all to maintain” the telephone metadata collection program.
Members of the PCLOB have insisted that they were able to fully counsel Obama on their opinions and that they harbor no ill will against the president for the timing of his speech.
This is Snowden’s second public Q&A session, following one with Greenwald held shortly after his first leaks were published in June 2013.