Born in 1983, Edward Snowden is an IT systems expert and former computer intelligence consultant for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA), one of the world’s most secretive organisations.
He will go down in history as one of America’s most consequential whistleblowers, when he traveled in 2013 to Hong Kong (where he believed that it was one of the few places in the world that both could and would resist the dictates of the US government) to provide journalists with thousands of top-secret documents about U.S. intelligence agencies’ surveillance of American citizens.
The US accused him of spying and stealing state secrets, but he fled to Russia and, despite all these accusations against him, he managed to become THE whistleblower who revealed the NSA’s mass surveillance programmes.
“My sole motivation is to inform the public about what is being done in their name and what is being done against them. I used to work for the government. Now I work for the public.”
The documents he revealed opened a critical public window into the secret mass surveillance programmes and capabilities of the NSA and its international intelligence partners: they attest to the massive collection of private data and eavesdropping on the Internet, developed over the past 15 years by the United States and the United Kingdom. These revelations have generated unprecedented worldwide attention on privacy intrusions and digital security, leading to a global debate on the issue.
In 2014, Laura Poitras made the documentary “Citizenfour” about Edward Snowden and the NSA spying scandal, and in 2016 Oliver Stone popularised the whistleblower’s story in a film released as “Snowden”.
The same year, Snowden became the president of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, an organization that aims to protect journalists from hacking and government surveillance.
When he escaped from the US as “Enemy of the State”, Snowden spent more than one month in the Moscow airport, trying to negotiate asylum in various countries. After being denied asylum by all nations, he settled in Russia, where he remains today.
“I’m willing to sacrifice all of my comfortable life because I can’t in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.
He now exposes how the global COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns combined with the already immense power of Silicon Valley and its allies in the national security state, serve to “seal off” individuals and entire populations from one another: increased surveillance amid the coronavirus outbreak could lead to long-lasting erosion of civil liberties.
“In five years, when the coronavirus will be gone, our data will still be available to them – they start looking for new things. They already know what you’re looking at on the Internet, they already know where you’re going on your phone, now they know what your heart rate is. What happens when they start mixing all those informations together and applying artificial intelligence to it?”
He has been warning:
“COVID-19 could give governments invasive new data-collection powers that could last long after the pandemic. These lockdown measures are just the beginning and we may soon experience a future filled with Big Tech and government impositions that we are not informed about nor consent to.”
He states that the institutional powers of our day, which have assumed for themselves some mandate – whether to conduct business, whether its to govern the lives of others, whether it’s to make war, … don’t seem to particularly care about your answer to that question: Is this what you wanted? Is this OK? Did you agree to it?”
“Saying that you don’t care about privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about freedom of speech because you have nothing to say.”
Increasingly, our lives are mediated through these screens. We’re spending less and less time outside and more and more time staring into screen to connect to this larger world – to something beyond ourselves.
Because Facebook and Big Tech control the politics, and through the politics they control the platform, and through the platform they control the public… they exert a great deal of influence by compartmentalizing us, disconnecting us from the things we need to do to connect and engage with what is considered ‘normal life’ today. It’s time we recognize that these are forced decisions,” he cautions, while warning that this threatens to become permanent unless the public wakes up and acts.
The answer is frequently “you don’t have a choice” as to whether you agree or not… “because they have the gun, they have the baton. And Facebook would say ‘Click OK to continue’ – and if you don’t you can’t do anything…”
He explains that most people in the world do not agree with or particularly like most things that happen in the world today. However, consent is something entirely different from liking something or approving of it. These institutional powers, elected and unelected, only have their power because we give them our power. We do indeed consent. Like everything else in this world, consent is a spectrum. A range. At one end of that spectrum is conscious consent. People who for whatever their reasons, be it hopium or nihilism or whatever else, do consciously consent. They see what’s going on, but they think it’s the lesser of two evils, or some other excuse for the bad behaviour of those we let control the world. At the other end of the spectrum is manufactured consent. People in a hypnotic trance who have never had a single original thought in their lives. People who only know what they have been told, think as they have been told, believe as they have been told, feel as they have been told and do as they have been told. These people can hardly be considered human beings. Most people fall somewhere between the two ends of the spectrum. Semi-blind and semi-conscious. Leaning more or less in one direction or the other.
Some of his most important interviews: