Wednesday, May 28, 2014

"Traitor or Patriot? Inside the Mind of Edward Snowden": Brian Williams interviews the Smooth Man in a Moscow hotel


NBC News tonight aired a one hour interview from a hotel room in Moscow, “Inside the Mind of Edward Snowden”, conducted by Brian Williams.  The interview was set up to ask the question, “traitor or patriot?”   Observers believe that Snowden is trying to set up a climate where the government can negotiate a deal for him to come home and face a light sentence.  The main link for the interview is here.

Snowden said that he has worked for the CIA, NSA, and DIA, at least as a contractor.  Calling him a “systems administrator” gives an underweighted characterization of the importance of what he does. He made great money for someone with no high school diploma.  He tried to join Special Forces in 2004 but both broke legs in training and washed out, before entering intelligence.


Snowden said that most intelligence today is accomplished with electronics, and little of it involves spy work like in the movies.

Snowden doesn’t accuse the NSA of evil intentions, but says that senior officials have expanded their activities beyond legal authority.  He says he did try to go through some channels on this matter, and NBC News has confirmed some of what he says, and has filed a FOIA request

Snowden denies that the material leaked to Greenwald and published has harmed any Americans, or is material to military operations.  However the government insists that Snowden has tipped off enemies to counter-terrorism measures, endangering sources overseas and possibly making a major homeland terror attack in the US more likely.

Williams discussed the special cell phone he had taken to Russia.  Snowden said that the NSA can turn on the cell phone of anyone even when it is off and eavesdrop.  If someone is online, it can eavesdrop on what he is typing – the NSA can keylog anyone.  It would be possible for the NSA and government to misconstrue all the contexts around the activities of a person, which might include activities that seem innocuous, like checking sports scores. 

Similar capabilities exist with activities on personal computers, which in extreme cases might be vulnerable to snooping even when offline.  The government could obviously look at cloud backups.

Williams asked Snowden about what it was like to live in Russia.  Putin’s behavior has become more disturbing since Snowden arrived there.  The anti-gay law and activity in Ukraine were not specifically mentioned.  But Snowden mentioned a new Russian law requiring “registration” of bloggers, at least those with more than a certain number of visits a day.

I was quite struck by the way Snowden talks analytically, the same way I do.  His sentence structures and logical processing were the same as mine.  Snowden says that sometimes, to do the right thing, you have to go outside the law a little.  No, I;ve never thought I could take the law into my own hands.  But "the right thing" does go beyond the expectations of others.

Snowden says that US vulnerability results from a failure to connect the dots and recognize significance of publicly available information, not from not having the "dots".  

There is a lot of discussion about the Snowdel email to the NSA on his concerns (Vox has an explanatory link) and if he has a lot of these emails as he says, why didn't he save them the way he saved material that leaked? 

Glenn Greenwald appeared on the program briefly, and said that in Hong Kong, he had expected to see a much older person.  In the television 

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