Military personnel working on National Security Agency surveillance programs saw stumbling across explicit photos as one of the "fringe benefits of surveillance positions," Edward Snowden reveals in a wide-ranging interview with the Guardian. They may find, "for example, an intimate nude photo of someone in a sexually compromising situation, but they’re extremely attractive," he says. "So what do they do? They turn around in their chair and they show a co-worker. And their co-worker says: 'Oh, hey, that’s great. Send that to Bill down the way.' And sooner or later, this person’s whole life has been seen by all of these other people. Anything goes, more or less." An NSA spokeswoman asked to comment tells the New York Times that the agency has zero tolerance for such violations of professional standards. More from the interview:
- On life at the NSA: "Many people don’t understand that I was actually an analyst and I designated individuals and groups for targeting," Snowden says. "Generally, it’s not the people at the working level you need to worry about. It's the senior officials" who are "shielded from oversight," but you also "have a tremendous population of young military enlisted individuals who, while that’s not a discredit to them ... may not have had the number of life experiences to have felt the sense of being violated."
- On NSA auditing: "A 29-year-old walked in and out of the NSA with all of their private records. What does that say about [the NSA's] auditing? They didn’t even know."
- On technology: Asked if he used Dropbox, Snowden says, "They just put Condoleezza Rice on their board, who is probably the most anti-privacy official you can imagine. ... So they're very hostile to privacy."
- On life in Moscow: "I get recognized," he says. "It’s a little awkward at times because my Russian's not as good as it should be. I’m still learning. But yeah, every now and then somebody does." He says he wants to return to the US, but he's much "happier here in Russia than I would be facing an unfair trial in which I can't even present a public interest defense to a jury of my peers." Russia is "a modern country and it’s been good to me, so yeah, I have a pretty normal life and I would absolutely like to continue to be able to travel as I have in the past."
- On his links with Russia: "The State Department stranded me in Russia as I was transiting through on my way to Latin America," Snowden says, adding that he has been "totally open about the fact that I disapprove of the majority of the recent laws in Russia on Internet censorship and surveillance." If the US government "had the tiniest indication, the tiniest shred of evidence that, not even that I was working for the Russian government, that I was associating with the Russian government, it would be on the front page of the New York Times by lunchtime," he adds.