Snowden: NSA Employees Are Passing Around Nude Photos

“Regardless of what happens, if I end up in chains in Guantanamo, I can live with that,” the 31-year-old former NSA contractor said.

Activists protest the surveillance of U.S. citizens by the NSA outside the Justice Department where President Barack Obama gave a major speech on reforming the NSA January 17, 2014.
National Journal
Dustin Volz
July 17, 2014, 8:11 a.m.

Ana­lysts work­ing for the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency routinely pass around private, in­tim­ate pho­tos found in the stream of com­mu­nic­a­tions data in­ter­cep­ted, ac­cord­ing to Ed­ward Snowden.

In a new, ex­tens­ive video in­ter­view, the fu­git­ive leak­er said the frat­ern­iz­ing prac­tice is seen as a “fringe be­ne­fit” of work­ing for the in­tel­li­gence agency.

“You got young en­lis­ted guys, 18-to-22 years old — they’ve sud­denly been thrust in­to a situ­ation with ex­traordin­ary re­spons­ib­il­ity where they now have ac­cess to all of your private re­cords,” Snowden told The Guard­i­an. “Now, in the course of their daily work, they stumble across something that is com­pletely un­re­lated to their work in any sort of ne­ces­sary sense, for ex­ample, an in­tim­ate nude photo of someone in a sexu­ally com­prom­ising situ­ation, but they’re ex­tremely at­tract­ive.”

Snowden, speak­ing on cam­era from Rus­sia, where he is liv­ing un­der tem­por­ary asylum, con­tin­ued:

So what do they do, they turn around in their chair and show their cowork­er. And their cowork­er says, “Oh, hey, that’s great. Send that to Bill down the way.” And then Bill sends it to George, George sends it to Tom. Soon­er or later, this per­son’s whole life has been seen by all of these oth­er people. It’s nev­er re­por­ted, nobody ever knows about it be­cause the audit­ing of these sys­tems is very weak. The fact that your private im­ages, re­cords of your private lives, re­cords of your in­tim­ate mo­ments have been taken from your private com­mu­nic­a­tions stream, from the in­ten­ded re­cip­i­ent, and giv­en to the gov­ern­ment without any spe­cif­ic au­thor­iz­a­tion, without any spe­cif­ic need, is in it­self a vi­ol­a­tion of your rights? Why is that in a gov­ern­ment data­base?

When pushed back on the scen­ario, Snowden said such be­ha­vi­or is “routine enough, de­pend­ing on the com­pany you keep.”

Dur­ing a sev­en-hour dis­cus­sion with The Guard­i­an taped last week, Snowden also said he could tol­er­ate liv­ing in a U.S. pris­on.

“Re­gard­less of what hap­pens, if I end up in chains in Guantanamo, I can live with that,” the 31-year-old former NSA con­tract­or said.

Snowden has in­sisted he would prefer to come home rather than live in Rus­sia, where he just ap­plied for an­oth­er year of asylum — a re­quest likely to be gran­ted. But fears of an un­fair tri­al have kept him abroad since his jet-set­ting flight from the U.S. last sum­mer.

Ad­di­tion­ally, Snowden said he didn’t trust the se­cur­ity of pop­u­lar on­line com­mu­nic­a­tion ser­vices such as Google and Skype. While he has used both to com­mu­nic­ate his anti-sur­veil­lance mes­sage to audi­ences around the world, he “wouldn’t use it for per­son­al com­mu­nic­a­tions,” Snowden said.

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