Snowden Speaks at SXSW, Attacks NSA in Testimony Before European Parliament

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Edward Snowden fled the United States nearly a year ago after leaking classified National Security Agency documents to media outlets. However, Snowden has not receded from the public spotlight. In fact, he gave a presentation at Austin’s South By Southwest Interactive festival in Austin earlier this week — remotely, of course. (Snowden has been granted temporary asylum in Russia.)

Snowden’s most quotable message from his talk? “They’re setting fire to the future of the Internet,” which he said about the NSA and its continued measures to monitor the American public. Such surveillance, he said, is what prompted him to leak the documents — which showed that the U.S. government had been monitoring its citizens phone and Internet data — last June.

It’s true that the Internet has come a long way in only a decade or so. Trials that took place in the early 2000s rarely included requests for electronically stored information (known as ESI), but today, those requests are quite commonplace. One of the largest factors in the push toward increased surveillance was the terrorist attacks of 9/11, but Snowden argues that ravaging the U.S. Constitution in order to attain more protection is a fool’s errand.

One of the largest factors in the push toward increased surveillance was the terrorist attacks of 9/11, but Snowden argues that ravaging the U.S. Constitution in order to attain more protection is a fool's errand.
One of the largest factors in the push toward increased surveillance was the terrorist attacks of 9/11, but Snowden argues that ravaging the U.S. Constitution in order to attain more protection is a fool’s errand.

And the privacy breaches aren’t exclusively an American problem. Last week, Snowden told Members of the European Parliament that the NSA had turned the European Union into a “bazaar” of wiretapping and intrusive surveillance in order to spy on citizens. The NSA did this, Snowden alleged, by placing pressure on EU member states to pass legislation authorization surveillance on a significant scale. While they may think it’s for the betterment of their citizens, Snowden said, these EU nations are being duped into becoming pawns for the NSA’s larger patchwork of globalized monitoring.

Remarks like these have set the Obama administration back a bit. In January, as a reaction to Snowden’s leaks, the government banned spying on leaders of ally nations and set plans in motion to scale back its monitoring efforts. Snowden viewed these changes at the NSA as proof that his claims were valid and that he was in the right for leaking the information in the first place.

Still, there’s doubt cast over Snowden’s final fate. He’s been mostly keeping a low profile, preferring to let the debate over privacy occur naturally, according to the Washington Post. But these latest remarks may yet offer up some sparks in that debate. Snowden’s asylum in Russia expires in early August.

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