Snowden is holed up in a hotel in Hong Kong, where he says his “primary fear is that they will come after my family, my friends, my partner. Anyone I have a relationship with.”
He and his girlfriend moved out of their home near Honolulu on May 1.
“The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your emails or your wife’s phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards,” he said.
“I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things. … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under. … We have seen enough criminality on the part of government. It is hypocritical to make this allegation against me. They have narrowed the public sphere of influence.”
He said the crux of the leaks is showing “that the NSA routinely lies in response to congressional inquiries about the scope of surveillance in America.”
“I believe that when [senator Ron] Wyden and [senator Mark] Udall asked about the scale of this, they [the NSA] said it did not have the tools to provide an answer. We do have the tools and I have maps showing where people have been scrutinised most. We collect more digital communications from America than we do from the Russians.”
“We hack everyone everywhere. We like to make a distinction between us and the others. But we are in almost every country in the world. We are not at war with these countries,” Snowden continued. “You are not even aware of what is possible. The extent of their capabilities is horrifying. We can plant bugs in machines. Once you go on the network, I can identify your machine. You will never be safe whatever protections you put in place.”
Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, said in a Guardian op-ed today “Snowden’s whistleblowing gives us the possibility to roll back a key part of what has amounted to an ‘executive coup’ against the US constitution.”
“In my estimation, there has not been in American history a more important leak than Edward Snowden’s release of NSA material – and that definitely includes the Pentagon Papers 40 years ago,” Ellsberg wrote. “…Neither the president nor Congress as a whole may by themselves revoke the fourth amendment – and that’s why what Snowden has revealed so far was secret from the American people.”