Is Edward Snowden a hero for revealing government wrongdoing, or a traitor for leaking classified information? “I don’t think anybody acts and says to themselves, ‘What I’m doing is immoral, but I’m going to do it.’ People always rationalize,” according to former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow. Correspondent Lucky Severson reports on the debate over the morality of Snowden’s actions.
Selected quotes from the transcript:
EDWARD SNOWDEN: I’m just another guy who sits there day to day in the office and watches what’s happening and goes, “This is something that’s not our place to decide. The public needs to decide whether these programs or policies are right or wrong.”
THOMAS DRAKE: I went through every chain of command that existed, including internal inspector general.
SEVERSON: Snowden has said that he skipped the country because he saw what happened to whistleblower Thomas Drake. Drake was an NSA senior analyst who went to the Baltimore Sun only after he had gone up the chain of command to complain about a billion-dollar spy program that was later abandoned.
DRAKE: I was put under severe duress. I was surveilled physically and electronically. I was threatened. At one point the chief prosecutor, in April of 2008, said, “How would you like to spend the rest of your life in prison, Mr. Drake, unless you cooperate with our investigation?” And so they came after me with everything they had.
JESSEYLN RADACK: I mean, when you are a whistleblower, you are extremely isolated. The government called me a traitor and a turncoat and a terrorist sympathizer in the New York Times, and that makes you pretty radioactive.
Nearly a decade after the George W. Bush administration’s warrantless spying program came to light, the issue of mass government surveillance has again sparked a global outcry with the disclosures of whistleblower Edward Snowden. Leaks of National Security Agency files have exposed a mammoth spying apparatus that stretches across the planet, from phone records to text messages to social media and email, from the internal communications of climate summits to those of foreign missions and even individual heads of state. Today privacy advocates are holding one of their biggest online actions so far with “The Day We Fight Back Against Mass Surveillance.”
Thousands of websites will speak in one voice, displaying a banner encouraging visitors to fight back by posting memes and changing their social media avatars to reflect their demands, as well as contacting their members of Congress to push through surveillance reform legislation. The action is inspired in part by the late Internet open-access activist Aaron Swartz, who helped set a precedent in January 2012 when more than 8,000 websites went dark for 12 hours in protest of a pair of controversial bills that were being debated in Congress: the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA). The bills died in committee in the wake of protests. We discuss today’s global action with Rainey Reitman, activism director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and co-founder of the Freedom of the Press Foundation.
Investigative journalists Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald join us for their first interview upon launching The Intercept, their new digital magazine published by First Look Media, the newly formed media venture started by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.
Greenwald is the journalist who first broke the story about Edward Snowden’s disclosures on the National Security Agency. He was previously a columnist at The Guardian newspaper.
Scahill is producer and writer of the documentary film “Dirty Wars,” which is nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. “We are really about a journalistic ethos — which is not doing things like helping the U.S. continue its targeting of U.S. citizens for death, but by being adversarial to the government,” Greenwald says. “Telling the public what it ought to know, and targeting the most powerful corporate factions with accountability journalism.”
Greenwald and Scahill founded TheIntercept.org with filmmaker Laura Poitras.