NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has gone on the offensive against his critics in the US, accusing the mainstream media there of failing their audiences “for fear of being seen as unpatriotic and punished in the market.”
In a rare interview, Snowden explained why he chose a UK
journalist and a documentary filmmaker for his leaks.
In an encrypted e-mail correspondence with journalist Peter
Maass, the former NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower presented
his candid opinion of the US media and what finally persuaded him
to go public on the NSA’s worldwide surveillance program.
The heightened level of nationalism prevalent in the United
States following the attacks of 9/11 precluded US media from
engaging in any serious discussion on the excesses of government
behavior for fear of seeming “unpatriotic,” Snowden argued
in the interview published in The New York Times – his first
since gaining temporary asylum in Russia.
“After 9/11, many of the most important news outlets in
America abdicated their role as a check to power — the
journalistic responsibility to challenge the excesses of
government — for fear of being seen as unpatriotic and punished
in the market during a period of heightened nationalism,” the
NY Times reported Snowden as saying.
The former CIA employee said this strategy by the American media
establishment had “ended up costing the public dearly.”
Snowden then revealed what led him to divulge his explosive
information to Laura Poitras, the documentary filmmaker who
served first as an intermediary between Snowden and Glenn
Greenwald, an investigative journalist with The Guardian, and now
“Laura and Glenn are among the few who reported fearlessly on
controversial topics throughout this period, even in the face of
withering personal criticism, and resulted in Laura specifically
becoming targeted by the very programs involved in the recent
disclosures,” Snowden said.
Poitras “demonstrated the courage, personal experience and
skill needed to handle what is probably the most dangerous
assignment any journalist can be given — reporting on the secret
misdeeds of the most powerful government in the world,”
Snowden said in the NY Times interview, adding that those
qualifications made her “an obvious choice.”
The interview then focused on what made Snowden, who arrived on
May 20 in Hong Kong with details of the NSA’s PRISM program,
confident that he could place his trust in Poitras.
Snowden told Maass that he discovered Poitras was “more
suspicious of me than I was of her, and I’m famously
The former CIA employee continued: “The combination of her
experience and her exacting focus on detail and process gave her
a natural talent for security, and that’s a refreshing trait to
discover in someone who is likely to come under intense scrutiny
in the future, as normally one would have to work very hard to
get them to take the risks seriously.”
Snowden revealed that working with Poitras allowed him to
“open up without fearing the invested trust would be
He then spoke at length on the subject of encrypted
communications, specifically for journalists.
“I was surprised to realize that there were people in news
organizations who didn’t recognize any unencrypted message sent
over the Internet is being delivered to every intelligence
service in the world,” he said.
In the wake of this year’s disclosures, it should be clear that
unencrypted journalist-source communication is “unforgivably
reckless,” Snowden added.
Snowden, 30, landed in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport on June 23,
prompting President Vladimir Putin to describe his presence in
the airport’s transit zone as an “unwanted Christmas
gift.” After initially applying for asylum to some 20
countries, Snowden eventually accepted temporary asylum in Russia
on the condition requested by Putin, that he “not further harm
Moscow’s decision to grant one-year temporary asylum to Snowden
has caused consternation in the United States, even prompting
President Barack Obama to cancel a meeting with Putin in Moscow
scheduled for September.
The Kremlin, in turn, expressed its disappointment with the White
House’s decision, while reminding Washington that it had declined
extradition requests on the part of Russia in the past.
“We are disappointed by the US administration’s decision to
cancel the visit of President Obama to Moscow that was planned
for the beginning of September,” Russia’s presidential aide
Yury Ushakov told reporters. “It is clear that the decision is
related to the situation around the former intelligence agency
employee Snowden – something that was created not by us.”
According to Ushakov, the US has “for many years dodged
entering into an extradition treaty” with Russia and
“invariably refused” Moscow’s extradition requests, citing
the absence of such a treaty.
“This situation shows that the US is still not ready to build
relations with Russia on an equal footing,” Ushakov
Republished from: RT