Proposed NSA reforms vindicate my data leaks
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[March 11, 2014]
By Jon Herskovitz
AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) — Former security
contractor Edward Snowden, addressing a sympathetic crowd at a
tech-heavy event in Austin, Texas, on Monday from a secret location in
Russia, said proposed reforms at the National Security Agency show that
he was vindicated in leaking classified material.
Snowden, who faces arrest if he steps foot on U.S. soil, spoke via
a video link to a packed house at the annual South by Southwest
(SXSW) gathering of tech industry experts, filmmakers and musicians.
He said the U.S. government still has no idea what material he has
provided to journalists.
"I saw that the Constitution was violated on a massive scale,"
Snowden said to applause, adding that his revelations of government
spying on private communications have resulted in protections that
have benefited the public and global society.
NSA officials declined to comment on the Snowden remarks.
Last year, Snowden, who had been working at a NSA facility as an
employee of Booz Allen Hamilton, leaked a raft of secret documents
that revealed a vast U.S. government system for monitoring phone and
The leaks deeply embarrassed the Obama administration, which in
January banned U.S. eavesdropping on the leaders of friendly
countries and allies and began reining in the sweeping collection of
Americans' phone data in a series of limited reforms triggered by
Major companies also tightened up safeguards. But Snowden said the
efforts are still not enough to protect privacy properly, calling
for stepped-up encryption that would make mass government
surveillance too costly to conduct.
"The government has gone and changed their talking points. They have
changed their verbiage away from public interest to national
interest," he said, adding that this poses the risk of losing
control of representative democracy.
He said the government's priority has been an expansive and
ill-executed system of massive information collection instead of
protecting the vast amounts of intellectual property that support
the U.S. economy.
"We've got the most to lose from being hacked," Snowden said.
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U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo, a Republican from Kansas, wrote to
SXSW organizers, calling on them to withdraw the invitation to
Snowden, who he said deceived his employer and his country.
"Rewarding Mr. Snowden's behavior in this way encourages the very
lawlessness he exhibited," Pompeo wrote.
To many in government and at the NSA, Snowden is a traitor who
compromised the security of the United States. But for many at the
conference he is a hero who protected privacy and civil liberties.
"To me, Snowden is a patriot who believed that what he did was in
the best interests of his country," said Roeland Stekelenburg,
creative director at the Dutch Internet firm Infostrada.
Snowden fled to Hong Kong and then to Russia, where he currently has
asylum. The White House wants him returned to the United States for
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Leslie
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