Snowden: I'm No Spy
'I could be in China petting a Phoenix by now'
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 17, 2013 11:53 AM CDT
A TV screen shows the news of Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee who leaked top-secret documents about sweeping U.S. surveillance programs, at a shopping mall in Hong Kong, June 17, 2013.   (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

(Newser) – Edward Snowden held an online Q&A today over at the Guardian, to answer the public's burning questions about his NSA leaks. Here are some of the highlights that caught our eye:

  • Are you a Chinese spy? "If I were a Chinese spy, why wouldn't I have flown directly to Beijing? I could be living in a palace petting a phoenix by now." China also shot down this notion today, calling it "utter nonsense," according to the Wall Street Journal.

  • Could you really spy on anyone as you claimed? Snowden is standing by the statement. "US persons do enjoy limited policy protections," he admits (though "policy protection is no protection" in his book), and a "very weak technical protection" in the form of a purposely ineffective filter. Besides, the "US persons" thing is a distraction. "Suspicionless surveillance does not become okay simply because it's only victimizing 95% of the world instead of 100%."
  • Do you hold Facebook, Google, and Co. responsible? Yes; they're legally compelled to cooperate, but if they didn't, "what do you think the government would do? Shut them down?"
  • Is the NSA really getting the content of communications? Yes. "If I target for example an email address … and that email address sent something to you, Joe American, the analyst gets it. All of it. IPs, raw data, content, headers, attachments, everything."
  • Why did you wait to reveal all this? "Obama's campaign promises and election gave me faith that he would lead us toward fixing the problems." When he didn't, Snowden felt compelled to act.
  • Did you lie about your $200,000 salary? The figure came out of an unrecorded conversation with Greenwald, in which he'd said his "career high" salary was that. "I had to take pay cuts" at Booz Allen.
  • Why go to Hong Kong instead of Iceland? "Leaving the US was an incredible risk" because NSA employees' travel is monitored. "There was a distinct possibility I would be interdicted en route, so I had to travel with no advance booking to a country with the cultural and legal framework to allow me to work without being immediately detained."