America Gets A Closer Look At Snowden

Edward Snowden, exiled in Russia since his arrival there in June 2013, gave Americans a more detailed picture of his motivations during an interview with NBC’s Brian Williams. Looking fit and rested, Snowden wore his familiar glasses, a blue blazer and highly polished shoes.

 To understand Snowden’s motivations, we took notes during the interview and summarized them below. We augmented the summary with some of our previous, related work.

Snowden sees himself as a patriot who did what he had to do

Snowden considers himself to be an American patriot whose actions have done nothing to harm the public interest. At one point he claimed that his critics “can’t show a single individual who’s been harmed” from his revelations.

Williams asked Snowden if he was blameless, to which Snowden replied that “sometimes to do the right thing you have to break the law.”

 From our previous work:

Understanding Edward Snowden: From High School Dropout To Nobel Prize Candidate



He’s an accidental tourist – but not a naive one

When asked about his exile in Russia, Snowden said that he is surprised to be there, having become stranded by the US State Department when it revoked his passport during transit. Snowden went on to say that he has no relationship with the Russian government.

From our previous work:

It’s Not Just The US – Russian Surveillance At Home Is Vast And Unchecked



His background is all-American

Williams and Snowden discussed Snowden’s All-American background, noting that his Dad is a vet, his grandfather an FBI agent, and Snowden himself volunteered for US special forces before being washed out by injuries.

When discussing the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001, Snowden called it  disingenuous and exploitative of the government to justify questionable surveillance programs that have never been shown to be effective, but cost Americans freedoms.

 “If we want to be free we can’t give away our privacy and rights,” he said at one point.

The proper channels didn’t work

Snowden says he contacted the NSA’s general counsel to raise concerns about the legality of NSA activities, and that he raised his concerns to his supervisor and colleagues. Snowden claims that the response from the top was that he should stop asking questions.

Williams asked about Putin’s ascendancy on the global stage, to which Snowden replied that he was frustrated to be stuck in a country where internet rights are being diminished while at the same time he seeks to improve them. He expressed hope that countries would band together to control the erosion of peoples rights.

 From our previous work:

Is The U.S. Is Falling Behind When It Comes To Open Internet Rights?


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We’ve embedded the interview below. Snippets of the interview can be found on the NBC website.