Snowden: ‘No Chance’ of Fair Trial for Me in U.S.

The former NSA contractor answered questions Thursday culled from Twitter in a wide-ranging online session.

A portrait of Edward Snowden declaring him a 'hero' is seen during a protest against government surveillance on October 26, 2013 in Washington, DC. The disclosures of widespread surveillance by the US National Security Agency of US allies has caused an international uproar, with leaders in Europe and Latin America demanding an accounting from the United States. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
National Journal
Dustin Volz
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Dustin Volz
Jan. 23, 2014, 11:01 a.m.

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.

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