Did Edward Snowden just disclose more secrets in online chat? (+video)(Read article summary)
In his online chat on the Guardian newspaper web site, NSA leaker Edward Snowden said members of Congress have 'special immunity' from snooping by the intelligence agency.
National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden answered questions from ordinary folks Monday on a Guardian newspaper online chat. It was a technical first of sorts ‚Äď a virtual public news conference by someone who‚Äôs in a lot of trouble and does not wish to make public their precise location.
So did he reveal anything new? Yes ‚Äď among other things, he charged that US lawmakers are themselves shielded against NSA snooping.
This came on his very last answer in the chat, after Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald asked him if he had anything to add. Mr. Snowden said that just because you ‚Äď as in ‚Äúyou, the average citizen‚ÄĚ ‚Äď are not an NSA target does not make the agency‚Äôs programs OK.
That‚Äôs because civil liberty protections built into NSA procedures are no replacement for having the information gathering limited to individuals who have already fallen under suspicion.
‚ÄúThis is the precise reason the NSA provides Congress with a special immunity to its surveillance,‚ÄĚ Snowden added.
Is this true? As national security expert blogger Marcy Wheeler points out, it‚Äôs certainly feasible to block the NSA from access to all official congressional numbers. But given the multiple communications devices common to congressional aides and campaigns, plus personal stuff, it might be challenging to actually wall off Congress from any inadvertent NSA collection.
However, Ms. Wheeler notes that immediately after Snowden‚Äôs initial leaks Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) of Maryland, chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee, complained publicly about the possibility the NSA was intercepting her communications. Then she shut up about it, and did not bring up the subject at a hearing featuring NSA director Keith Alexander.
‚ÄúSo while Snowden is clearly trying to push the debate, it is also quite likely that the immunity comment is true,‚ÄĚ Wheeler wrote Monday.
Another interesting tidbit that came out of Snowden‚Äôs Guardian chat was his assertion that he is trying to protect the privacy of people all over the world, not just in the United States.
He said that he believes ‚Äúsuspicionless surveillance‚ÄĚ is not OK, period, even if the targets of this are not American citizens.
‚ÄúOur founders did not write that ‚ÄėWe hold these truths to be self-evident, that all US persons are created equal,‚Äô ‚ÄĚ Snowden said in the chat.
This shows that Snowden is not just concerned about the effect of NSA programs on American citizens, but is an extreme skeptic of government surveillance of all sorts, writes Zeke Miller of Time Magazine.
‚ÄúIn that sense, Snowden is emerging as an heir to [Wikileaks founder] Julian Assange,‚ÄĚ Mr. Miller writes.
Other interesting stuff that came out of the Guardian chat includes Snowden‚Äôs denial that he is a spy for China. If he were, he‚Äôd have gone straight to Beijing and be living in a palace ‚Äúpetting a phoenix,‚ÄĚ he said.
He also was harshly critical of former VP Dick Cheney, who has called Snowden a ‚Äútraitor‚ÄĚ for his disclosure of NSA secrets. He said Cheney had supported the Bush administration‚Äôs warrantless wiretapping as well as the Iraq War.
‚ÄúBeing called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American,‚ÄĚ said Snowden.