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Edward Snowden ‘Robot’ Explains To TED Talk Listeners How We Take Back The Internet

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Edward Snowden showed up at a TED2014 talk recently, discussing issues of surveillance and Internet freedom. How did he do it, considering he is essentially exiled from his home in the United States? Snowden appeared at the TED Conference via telepresence robot, proclaiming to the audience that regardless of what political party you align yourself with, “Your rights matter,” he say, “because you never know when you’re going to need them.”

Chris Anderson interviewed Snowden, with special guest Tim Berners-Lee. Below is a partial transcript. If you are able to watch the video in its entirety, you should take a quick half-an-hour and do so.

Speaking about Dick Cheney, Snowden says “We should be suspicious about the same overblown claims about damage to national security from these kind of officials. But, But, let’s assume these people really believe it. I would argue they have a kind of narrow conception of national security. The prerogatives of people like Dick Cheney do not keep the nation safe. The public interest is not always the same as the national interest. Going to war with people who are not our enemies in places that are not a threat doesn’t make us safe. And that applies whether it’s in Iraq or on the internet.”

TED: It’s alleged that you have stolen 1.7 million documents. It seems only a few hundred of them have been shared with journalists so far. Are there more revelation to come?

Snowden: There are absolutely more revelations to come. Some of the most reporting to be done is yet to come.

TED: This is a story that for a lot of techies is the single most shocking thing that they have heard in the last few months. It’s about a program called Bull Run. Could you explain what that is?

Snowden: Bull Run is, and we have to thank the NSA for their candor. This is a program named after a civil war battle. They reason I believe it is named that way is they target our own infrastructure. Their programs intentionally mislead corporate partners. They tell corporate partners these are safe standards. Hey, we need to work with you to secure the system. But in reality their giving bad advice to these companies that makes them degrade the security of their services. They are building in back doors, that not only the NSA can exploit, but anyone else who has time and money to research and find, to let themselves in to the world’s communications. This is really dangerous because if we lose a single standard, if we lose the trust of something like SSL, which was specifically targeted by Bull Run, we will live in a less safe world overall. We won’t be able to access our banks, and we will not be able to access commerce without worrying about people monitoring those communications and subverting them for their own use.

TED: Do those same decisions also potentially open America up to cyber attacks from other sources?

Snowden: Absolutely. If we hack a Chinese business and steal their secrets, if we hack a government office in Berlin and steal their secrets, that has less value to the American people than making sure that the Chinese cannot get access to our secrets. By reducing the security of our communications, they are not only putting the world at risk, they are putting America at risk in a fundamental way. Intellectual property is the foundation of our economy. If we put that at risk with weak security, we are going to be paying for it for years.

TED: They have made a calculation it is worth doing this as part of America’s defense against terrorism.

Snowden: When you look at the results of these programs to stop terrorism, you will see that is unfounded. You don’t have to take my word for it. The first court that has reviewed this outside the secrecy arrangement, called these program Orwellian and likely unconstitutional. Two independent White House panels that reviewed all of the classified evidence said these programs have never stopped a single terrorist attack in the United States. So is it really terrorism that we are stopping? Do these programs have any value at all?

TED: [pointing to a newspaper clip that reads “I would love to put a bullet in his head one Pentagon official told BuzzFeed”] How are you coping with this?

Snowden: I’ve made clear, again and again and again that I go to sleep every morning thinking about what I can do for the American people. I don’t want to harm my government. I want to help my government. But the fact they are completely willing to ignore due process, they are willing to declare guilt without ever seeing a trial, these are things we need to work against. We shouldn’t be threatening citizens. We shouldn’t be criminalizing journalists. And whatever part I can do to see that end, I am happy to do that. …..

[Regarding optimism] Snowden: I am living proof that an individual can go head to head against the most powerful adversaries and the most powerful intelligence agencies around the world, and win. That is something we need to take hope from. Journalism is not a crime, communication is not a crime and we should not be monitored on our everyday activities. 

TED: The New York Times called for amnesty. Would you welcome the chance to come back to America?

Snowden: Absolutely. The principles that have been the foundation of this project have been the public interest. … The government has hinted they want some kind of deal. That they want me to compromise the journalists with which I have been working, to come back. And i want to make it very clear, that I did not do this to be safe. I did this to do what was right. And I am not going to stop my work in the public’s interest, just to benefit myself. [applause] … We don’t have to give up our privacy to have good government. We don’t have to give up our liberty to have security. And I think by working together, we can have both open government and private lives. And I look forward to working with everyone around the world to see that happen. Thank you very much. [Standing ovation]

(Article by M.B. David)

1 Comment on "Edward Snowden ‘Robot’ Explains To TED Talk Listeners How We Take Back The Internet"

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  1. Snowden is a good human being. We should all hold our selves to such admirable levels of accountability and empathy for our fellow man.

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