Edward Snowden's magnificent testimony to the EU

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has submitted written testimony [PDF] to an EU committee investigating mass surveillance. Glyn Moody's Techdirt post gives a great tl;dr summary of the document, but you should really read it for yourself. It's ten single-spaced pages, but Snowden turns out to be an extremely talented writer who beautifully lays out his arguments, managing the trick of being dispassionate while simultaneously conveying the import of his subject matter.

Snowden makes the point that his testimony doesn't disclose anything that the press hasn't already published, but there's been so much that it's worth reviewing some of it. He directs our attention to something I'd missed: the NSA's Foreign Affairs Division (FAD) spends an extraordinary amount of time lobbying EU nations (and other countries) to change their laws so that the NSA can legally spy on everyone in the country. What's more, they cook these deals -- for example, they'll get German permission to listen in on everything by non-Germans and get a Danish deal that covers all the non-Danes, but since the Internet backbones traverse both countries, they can spy on Germans in Denmark and Danes in Germany. As Snowden says, "The surest way for any nation to become subject to unnecessary surveillance is to allow its spies to dictate its policy."

Snowden also reveals that before he blew the whistle on the NSA, he "reported these clearly problematic programs to more than ten distinct officials, none of whom took any action to address them." He says that he'd love EU asylum, but doesn't expect any country to have the backbone to stand up to the USA. And he is admirably unequivocal on his relationship with China and Russia: "I have no relationship with either government."

He reaffirms that good crypto is proof against spies, and describes his relationship with Russia's spooks:

Of course. Even the secret service of Andorra would have approached me, if they had had the chance: that's their job.

But I didn't take any documents with me from Hong Kong, and while I'm sure they were disappointed, it doesn't take long for an intelligence service to realize when they're out of luck. I was also accompanied at all times by an utterly fearless journalist [WikiLeaks' Sarah Harrison] with one of the biggest megaphones in the world, which is the equivalent of Kryptonite for spies. As a consequence, we spent the next 40 days trapped in an airport instead of sleeping on piles of money while waiting for the next parade. But we walked out with heads held high.

EU Testimony of Edward Snowden [PDF]

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  1. Yeah, wow, interesting read. I noted four or five times that Snowden basically said, "I can't answer that entirely, but just wait, news of something along those lines is coming down the pike". Scary stuff.
    As was pointed out following several of the major corporate infiltration revelations (Google, Target, etc.), where was the NSA then? Or as other BB posters have acknowledged, if the NSA is so awfully great at what it does, then why the hell are botnets still a problem?

  2. Mr Snowden addresses the nominal reason for unlimited world surveillance (terrorism). But the usefulness of being able to look at anything anywhere is terribly valuable to Law Enforcement, the Military, and to the State Department. The government is reluctant to give up their illegal programs because it means giving up power. Terrorism is just a fig leaf.

  3. Well, TECHNICALLY, No Such Agency's job is Making Codes and Breaking Codes. Not stopping code.

    However, as a Security Geek, I can see them wanting to CONTROL a botnet or three. . . . all the better to surveil you by. . .

  4. xzzy says:

    Probably because they've compromised the botnets too and are using them to snarf even more data.

  5. Just one note regarding this not-at-all magnificent testimony from Edward Snowden (although more could be said: see link at the bottom).

    "I will leave the public interest determinations as to which of these may be safely disclosed to responsible journalists in coordination with government stakeholders."

    So great of Snowden to remind us that he's comfortable with established journalists and government peeps decide what should be revealed to us, the plebs, regarding all this mass surveillance thingy.

    So far, those two classes of superior citizens have done such a marvelous job at working for the common good, including making sure that less than 5% of all the data he amassed before flying off to Hong-Kong is ever released/revealed.

    So thanks for all the state-sponsored whistle-blowing, friend.

    Be further educated here: http://powerofnarrative.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/edward-snowden-tattletale.html

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