Edward Snowden: "The People Are Still Powerless... But Now They're Aware"

Authored by Ewan MacAskill and Alex Hern via The Guardian,

Five years after historic NSA leaks, the whistleblower tells the Guardian he has no regrets...

Edward Snowden has no regrets five years on from leaking the biggest cache of top-secret documents in history. He is wanted by the US. He is in exile in Russia. But he is satisfied with the way his revelations of mass surveillance have rocked governments, intelligence agencies and major internet companies.

In a phone interview to mark the anniversary of the day the Guardian broke the story, he recalled the day his world – and that of many others around the globe – changed for good. He went to sleep in his Hong Kong hotel room and when he woke, the news that the National Security Agency had been vacuuming up the phone data of millions of Americans had been live for several hours.

Snowden knew at that moment his old life was over. “It was scary but it was liberating,” he said. “There was a sense of finality. There was no going back.”

What has happened in the five years since? He is one of the most famous fugitives in the world, the subject of an Oscar-winning documentary, a Hollywood movie, and at least a dozen books. The US and UK governments, on the basis of his revelations, have faced court challenges to surveillance laws. New legislation has been passed in both countries. The internet companies, responding to a public backlash over privacy, have made encryption commonplace.

Snowden, weighing up the changes, said some privacy campaigners had expressed disappointment with how things have developed, but he did not share it.

“People say nothing has changed: that there is still mass surveillance. That is not how you measure change. Look back before 2013 and look at what has happened since. Everything changed.”

The most important change, he said, was public awareness.

The government and corporate sector preyed on our ignorance. But now we know. People are aware now. People are still powerless to stop it but we are trying. The revelations made the fight more even.

He said he had no regrets.

If I had wanted to be safe, I would not have left Hawaii (where he had been based, working for the NSA, before flying to Hong Kong).”

His own life is uncertain, perhaps now more than ever, he said. His sanctuary in Russia depends on the whims of the Putin government, and the US and UK intelligence agencies have not forgiven him. For them, the issue is as raw as ever, an act of betrayal they say caused damage on a scale the public does not realise.

This was reflected in a rare statement from Jeremy Fleming, the director of the UK surveillance agency GCHQ, which, along with the US National Security Agency. was the main subject of the leak. In response to a question from the Guardian about the anniversary, Fleming said GCHQ’s mission was to keep the UK safe: What Edward Snowden did five years ago was illegal and compromised our ability to do that, causing real and unnecessary damage to the security of the UK and our allies. He should be accountable for that.”

Jeremy Fleming of GCHQ addresses a security conference. Photograph: Owen Humphreys/PA

The anger in the US and UK intelligence communities is over not just what was published – fewer than 1% of the documents – but extends to the unpublished material too. They say they were forced to work on the assumption everything Snowden ever had access to had been compromised and had to be dumped.

There was a plus for the agencies. Having scrapped so much, they were forced to develop and install new and better capabilities faster than planned. Another change came in the area of transparency. Before Snowden, media requests to GCHQ were usually met with no comment whereas now there is more of a willingness to engage. That Fleming responds with a statement reflects that stepchange.

In his statement, he expressed a commitment to openness but pointedly did not credit Snowden, saying the change predated 2013. “It is important that we continue to be as open as we can be, and I am committed to the journey we began over a decade ago to greater transparency,” he said.

Others in the intelligence community, especially in the US, will grudgingly credit Snowden for starting a much-needed debate about where the line should be drawn between privacy and surveillance. The former deputy director of the NSA Richard Ledgett, when retiring last year, said the government should have made public the fact there was bulk collection of phone data.

The former GCHQ director Sir David Omand shared Fleming’s assessment of the damage but admitted Snowden had contributed to the introduction of new legislation. “A sounder and more transparent legal framework is now in place for necessary intelligence gathering. That would have happened eventually, of course, but his actions certainly hastened the process,” Omand said.

The US Congress passed the Freedom Act in 2015, curbing the mass collection of phone data. The UK parliament passed the contentious Investigatory Powers Act a year later. 

Ross Anderson, a leading academic specialising in cybersecurity and privacy, sees the Snowden revelations as a seminal moment. Anderson, a professor of security engineering at Cambridge University’s computer laboratory, said:

Snowden’s revelations are one of these flashbulb moments which change the way people look at things. They may not have changed things much in Britain because of our culture for adoring James Bond and all his works. But round the world it brought home to everyone that surveillance really is an issue.

MPs and much of the UK media did not engage to the same extent of their counterparts elsewhere in Europe, the US, Latin America, Asia and Australia. Among the exceptions was the Liberal Democrat MP Julian Huppert, who pressed the issue until he lost his seat in 2015.

“The Snowden revelations were a huge shock but they have led to a much greater transparency from some of the agencies about the sort of the things they were doing,” he said.

One of the disclosures to have most impact was around the extent of collaboration between the intelligence agencies and internet companies. In 2013, the US companies were outsmarting the EU in negotiations over data protection. Snowden landed like a bomb in the middle of the negotiations and the data protection law that took effect last month is a consequence.

One of the most visible effects of the Snowden revelations was the small yellow bubble that began popping up on the messaging service WhatsApp in April 2016: “Messages to this chat and calls are now secured with end-to-end encryption.” 

Before Snowden, such encryption was for the targeted and the paranoid. “If I can take myself back to 2013,” said Jillian York, the director for international freedom of expression at the digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation, “I maybe had the precursor to [the encrypted communication app] Signal on my phone, TextSecure. I had [another email encryption tool] PGP, but nobody used it.” The only major exception was Apple’s iMessage, which has been end-to-end encrypted since it was launched in 2011.

Developers at major technology companies, outraged by the Snowden disclosures, started pushing back. Some, such as those at WhatsApp, which was bought by Facebook a year after the story broke, implemented their own encryption. Others, such as Yahoo’s Alex Stamos, quit rather than support further eavesdropping. (Stamos is now the head of security at Facebook.)

“Without Snowden,” said York. “I don’t think Signal would have got the funding. I don’t think Facebook would have had Alex Stamos, because he would have been at Yahoo. These little things led to big things. It’s not like all these companies were like “we care about privacy”. I think they were pushed.”

Other shifts in the technology sector show Snowden’s influence has in many ways been limited. The rise of the “smart speaker”, exemplified by Amazon’s Echo, has left many privacy activists baffled. Why, just a few years after a global scandal involving government surveillance, would people willingly install always-on microphones in their homes?

“The new-found privacy conundrum presented by installing a device that can literally listen to everything you’re saying represents a chilling new development in the age of internet-connected things,” wrote Gizmodo’s Adam Clark Estes last year.

Towards the end of the interview, Snowden recalled one of his early aliases, Cincinnatus, after the Roman who after public service returned to his farm. Snowden said he too felt that, having played his role, he had retreated to a quieter life, spending time developing tools to help journalists protect their sources. “I do not think I have ever been more fulfilled,” he said. 

But he will not be marking the anniversary with a “victory lap”, he said.

There is still much to be done.

“The fightback is just beginning,” said Snowden.

“The governments and the corporates have been in this game a long time and we are just getting started.”


Implied Violins gatorengineer Tue, 06/05/2018 - 22:57 Permalink

Yup, he AND Assange.

I believe that Snowden, at least, is a 'limited hang-out'.  And there is this litmus test for both Assange and Snowden: both of them are on record as believing in the government story concerning 9/11.  That alone should give one pause.

As for Snowden...remember when he first came on the scene, he started out in China - then went to Russia.  The two main pillars of the BRICs.

Second, why are he and Assange slowly leaking their information, bit by bit, instead of just dumping it all at once? I know Snowden supposedly passed his info off to Greenwald and Poitras, but why are they slow-rolling it instead of just letting it all out at once? Are they really trying to alert the masses and actually help change the system, or are they going for a 'controlled release' as dictated by someone behind the scenes for some agenda?   And how much of what Snowden has revealed did we not already guess was happening?

Third, why the big hullaballoo about British authorities going to the Guardian newspaper offices and demanding to have access to all their hard drives containing Snowden's information (which they destroyed), while fully knowing that Greenwald/Poitras et. al. are the ones with the info, which they probably already passed on to others?

Fourth, I know that Greenwald got the full TWA treatment at the airport while on his way to Brazil, and US politicians called for his and Snowden's heads - but: he works for Pierre Omidyar, the owner of the Intercept that publishes Snowden's information, who is an American - the man who PAYS Greenwald - who has faced no similar treatment by authorities.  Why is that?  Is it because he helped fund the Ukrainian Oligarchs, so he is 'tight' with Victoria Nuland?  (If you want to read up on that, search for Mark Ames' Pando.com articles on Omidyar.  It's all in there.)

Fifth, how is it that he and Assange are getting air time seemingly any and every time they have an itch to scratch, while almost every other whistleblower (who hasn't been locked up yet) is basically ignored?

I've got a lot more, but I have VERY good reason to suspect anything that 'Snowden' puts out there.  Who benefits?  Could it be the government, because now that the world has been alerted that they are doing this, there has been a very noticeable damping effect on people expressing themselves about their displeasure with government on-line (Ok, not at Zero Hedge...)?  Or, could there *really* be some 'inside force' trying to expose the workings of the government for people to see, so that once the 'evil bastards' are removed, this stuff can be stopped in the name of 'Justice!!' while we all bow to the altar of the BRICs and the new golden Yuan?

Yeah call me cynical.  But I do give Snowden this: he really has awakened a large number of people to government impropriety.  I just pray it actually results in change.


In reply to by gatorengineer

Giant Meteor Implied Violins Tue, 06/05/2018 - 23:13 Permalink

Frog in the pot strategy.

Oh, and yes, as other's have pointed out, it's not so much what is said, but what isn't said, or, what is said , covering for what isn't said. The unknown, unknowns, or simply purposeful forgetting. And if the "war" against movement, pushback or whatever is just beginning, I submit it's already lost. Defunding should of course be the weapon of choice, pulling the teeth, and de-clawing the beast such as it were. But in what world does one envision that happening, in the great bi-partisan, corporate, financial lies nation, with it's various hand maidens, syncophants and dedicated servants.

It's a war alright, and the good guy's lost ..

As always, i spy, corporate deep state klusterfuckery couldn't exist without aid of the moneychangers, unelected, un-impeachable technocrats, and their unlimited (freemoney for them) printing press, not to mention their satan spawn servants, (you may have family members in the business.) This is straight up good versus evil shit, and evil is kickin ass. It has always been thus, since before, and after the time of Christ ( I leave others to debate and pontificate on THAT subject.)

Seeing however that human beans have been living in the end times for over 2,000 years now, and still show little propensity to evolve enmasse into higher, self enlightened beings, I'm not holdin my breath on this one.

To borrow a phrase, "death to the moneychangers" for without whom this nonsense would dry up like shit in the desert. Of course that would mean great pain, and tremendous suffering for a great number of folks. So, until the present travails create greater overall suffering (which is also worth noting being successfully masked through misdirection) and until there is greater overall awareness, and MASSIVE call to action we are are left with Orwells version, "imagine a boot stomping on your face, forever" although it's nice for now we get to read and discuss in our very own limited hangout.

So, without further adieu .. maestro

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality
Open your eyes, look up to the skies and see
I'm just a poor boy, I need no sympathy
Because I'm easy come, easy go, little high, little low
Any way the wind blows doesn't really matter to me, to me


In reply to by Implied Violins

D503 JSBach1 Wed, 06/06/2018 - 00:10 Permalink

These secret bearers drop a small fraction of reality, relative to what they have their fingers on, and wish to be vaunted as heroes.

Spill the fucking beans on relevant everything and shut this bitch down if you have the evidence.

"Hackers" can steal entire databases on DNA files of millions, but people with fucking ACCESS to NSA/CIA secrets cannot uncover anything less obtuse than "they are spying on you, here is some useless metadata."

In reply to by JSBach1

Baron Samedi Implied Violins Wed, 06/06/2018 - 00:56 Permalink

--> Implied Violins:  I too am wary of the 911-deniers/omitters (like Chomsky and Ron Paul), but I give them some benefit of doubt since we know that - even 17 years later - the serious cognitive dissonance with most populations can still be used to tar/feather anyone daring to intrude on their (laughably rosy) illusions about how far most governments will go to control their (obviously expendable) natives.   

In reply to by Implied Violins

boattrash Implied Violins Wed, 06/06/2018 - 09:48 Permalink

" Second, why are he and Assange slowly leaking their information, bit by bit, instead of just dumping it all at once? "

Well, maybe it goes back to "feed them enough rope and they'll hang themselves". It 's often fun to watch people lie about all kinds of shit, then you can drop a shit-grenade in their lap and watch it blow up everything they've said, including the cover-up.

In reply to by Implied Violins

The Navigator uhland62 Wed, 06/06/2018 - 01:06 Permalink

I have been at the receiving end of abuse of government power.  

As have we all, the 320 million Americans.

Drain the swamp and hang the fucking traitors, on a live YouTube feed, one at a time, that runs for the next 10 years. And let that be a lesson for the other fuckers.

And HOPEFULLY that will be enough blood to feed the Tree of Liberty for another 200 years. If not, then re-run the vids every 10 years.

In reply to by uhland62

Chris2 wee-weed up Wed, 06/06/2018 - 01:05 Permalink

Snowden is right, awareness is everything.

It is a great awakening, even on the left. Talked to a Hillary voter today and told her about Haiti, the money, the missing kids and she said "I am not surprised. Nothing surprises me anymore. Its very hard to find the truth now." That is awareness and being open to the possibility that you are not aware of the facts.

All of this is Cultural Marxism and the long march through the institutions, education, government, entertainment, media, destruction of family as Marcuse, Marx and Engels called for. And the number one tool is political correctness.

Pray for Trump/America because the left has all the institutions now. It could be that we woke up too late as they were plotting and planning for 50 yrs in America. What they don't realize is Marx and Engels called for the end of family and inheritance. How many trust funders think it's cool to be a Marxist. They also said everyone will have to WORK or not EAT.

In reply to by wee-weed up

The Navigator Chris2 Wed, 06/06/2018 - 01:18 Permalink

100+ I could hit the green/up button, but the Tylers are still ignoring my 100+ button suggestion.

Pray for Trump because they left has all the institutions now. It could be that we woke up too late as they were plotting and planning.

Many did wake up late, but boy are they pissed about the bamboozlement foisted on them - payback is gonna be a BITCH and wonderful to watch with popcorn.

Kinda like watching the election night returns when the Non MSM media was crying in their beers. Best night of my life, excluding my 1st lay.

In reply to by Chris2

Cloud9.5 NidStyles Wed, 06/06/2018 - 07:22 Permalink

I would generally ignore the level of your ignorance if it were not for the fact that your misconception is so widely believed by your fellow followers.  You clearly have never been in a Masonic lodge and witnessed what goes on there.   You would be sadly disappointed.  It is a group of old men whose primary concern is the health of their aging members and when the next spaghetti dinner is going to be held and who is going to work it.

As a primary group for social networking at the founding of the republic, there is  no question that Washington and some of his fellow Masons had considerable influence in the adoption of the secret ballot and some aspects of the structure of the federal government.    The rise of the anti-masonic party and the general disdain for our incredibly not so secret, secret society, read Duncan’s Rituals, the influence of the Masons has slipped considerably.

My own lodge is a mere shadow of itself with the vast majority of our membership in our seventies and eighties. I suspect that we will be a relic of the past by midcentury unless the need for  social networking rises again in a post collapse society.

In reply to by NidStyles

Hmmm... Cloud9.5 Wed, 06/06/2018 - 15:41 Permalink


" You clearly have never been in a Masonic lodge and witnessed what goes on there. "


Really?  Wow.  No offense or anything but I'm really glad that you  posted that info on this site today.  I have probably met masonic members in my life who I never knew were really that.  But Ive never talked to an actual member before, like this.  You brought it down to reality for me.  Every masonic member isn't a satanic covert vampire sucking the life force energy from the planet.  I get it.  & I'm grateful the insight.  Punky & I never would have gotten this insight if you hadn't posted this info.  Again, thanks a lot.  Ive learned something.  {smile}


In reply to by Cloud9.5

. . . _ _ _ . . . I Am Jack's Ma… Tue, 06/05/2018 - 21:58 Permalink

Being powerless, I might rather be unaware.

I don't think it's winnable anymore. I see a world in the future of only two classes. Having/raising  boatloads of money is a license to go ahead and try any stupid project, no matter how vast or how deluded. We are quickly approaching a point at which the vastness of a single project could knock everything else down.

Combine biology, nanotech, and quantum AI - Godlike - whoever gets to true AI will own everything. Whatever company that, or individual who owns the tech, will control everything.

Which scenario will most likely play out, or which will play out first?

The odds are against us, as they always have been, but now time is running out.

In reply to by I Am Jack's Ma…

The Navigator . . . _ _ _ . . . Wed, 06/06/2018 - 01:32 Permalink

Every war is winnable, depending mostly in belief (in your cause) and application of technique. 

The ONLY way 'they' could out number us, is to 1st remove 90% of the worlds population and PRAY the remaining 10% are NOT NRA members.

You could put all 100,000 (whatever, you pick the number) Billionaires in New Zealand, fuck the Northern Hemisphere with nuke shit, and still the patriots will find you, and I would not want to be 1 of you 100,000, begging for death after a 100 days of slow cuts.

More popcorn please.

In reply to by . . . _ _ _ . . .

. . . _ _ _ . . . The Navigator Wed, 06/06/2018 - 08:56 Permalink

"Every war is winnable,..."
Sayin' it don't make it so.

"The ONLY way 'they' could out number us, is to 1st remove 90% of the worlds population and PRAY the remaining 10% are NOT NRA members."
Your M-16s are pea shooters compared to the long-range weaponry the military has, and btw, America is the best armed country in the world (besides maybe Switzerland,) but wouldn't stand up to even sonic weaponry. Anyhow, the only way we can win if enough deserters manifest  themselves. You need a Smedley Butler v.2.0.

There are about 2000 billionaires.
"...and still the patriots will find you,..."
What patriots? All I hear is talk. You're all ready to defend your own land, but I don't see anyone marching on Washington to impeach Obama. I'll believe in the patriot uprising when it happens. I ain't holding my breath.

Don't get me wrong, best of luck.

In reply to by The Navigator

Endgame Napoleon I Am Jack's Ma… Tue, 06/05/2018 - 22:35 Permalink

Snowden was careful and thoughtful in the way he did things, trying to cause the least damage. He acted responsibly, and he had enough expertise to know what he was doing, unlike some who leaked indiscriminately, thinking they were doing the right thing, but doing it irresponsibly. When they look at issues in a court, they consider the way things were done, not seeing things as a black-and-white matter with no depth. All things considered, Snowden should be pardoned. 

In reply to by I Am Jack's Ma…

The Navigator Endgame Napoleon Wed, 06/06/2018 - 02:01 Permalink

If, in another 100 years, the Tree of Liberty is fead by the blood of the Traitors/Tyrants and our Constitutional Republic still exists, Snowden WILL BE remembered as a Patriot that opened so many eyes, and IF, History tells the truth, Snowden WILL BE remembranced to our 1776 days when we "mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honor"


Two hundred and thirty six years ago, a brave group of patriots signed their names to a document that would change the course of human history.

These fifty-six men publicly declared their commitment to the “self-evident truths” that formed the foundation of our nation and which have continued to serve as a beacon of hope for all people around the world who have ever yearned to be free.

The final sentence of the Declaration of Independence is a promise among the signers, to “mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honor,” and many of them and their fellow patriots did in fact sacrifice their lives and fortunes in service to our country. No loss of life or money could ever diminish the honor of these heroes, and it is that honor that we celebrate today.

Over two centuries ago, fifty-six men put their lives on the line to preserve and protect the freedoms that are the God-given unalienable rights of all free people.


We all are: Snowden/Seth Rich/Assange and every other whistleblower that tried to bring truth to the light. The Bamboozlement is about to end. Or as the Magic Negro would say, no more Okey Doke.


In reply to by Endgame Napoleon

halcyon I Am Jack's Ma… Wed, 06/06/2018 - 01:49 Permalink

Because Glenn Greenwald is an assett and was able to clean up most. Pierre Omidyar (the Intercept founder) is a deep state controlled (blackmailed assett) who created the Intercept to act as a honeypot to leaked material while Asssange and Wikileaks were being wagon-circled. It's the oldest trick in the book and it worked. Google for multiple leakers who confirm these.


In reply to by I Am Jack's Ma…

Meyer Bauer wisehiney Tue, 06/05/2018 - 23:29 Permalink

This man is only one of a very, very few honest, patriot Americans throughout history. I rate him as among the status of the persons who wrote our pristine constitution plus amendments - a true guide for nations in my belief. 

Contrast this against the greedy, bought, jew-cocksucker, animal military cucts and the like (Clinton, McCain, and so many other DOJ, CIA, FBI, DHS, Army,Navy, personnel, Sepcial Forces gay people, Rangers, Green Berets, Marines, SEALS (ur ur) (I'd love to get my hands on these faggots throats). 

Redux : Snowden hero: USSA forces gay/faggots.

In reply to by wisehiney