NSA case ‘not about surveillance’


I’m not great with technology. In fact, I’m still trying to figure out how to use my iPhone.

With that in mind, it was difficult to understand much of anything former National Security Administration (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden said at the Associated Collegiate Press media convention in Washington Saturday, not to mention the guy has a 145-point IQ.

Snowden talked to students using a video call and explained his role in the 2013 story releasing reports of government surveillance directed at citizens.

It’s spooky stuff and sounds like fuel for conspiracy theorists, but it is real.

Snowden argued government surveillance — like that performed by the NSA — should be a hard decision, not something that monitors everyone. He said surveillance needs to be expensive again.

“[It’s] not about surveillance — this was about democracy if you ask me,” Snowden said.

The story on reports of the U.S. government using NSA data to track people picks up more speed with each passing year as we realize how connected we are to technology, Snowden said.

He said he came forward and dropped his status as an anonymous source to keep his co-workers from going through hell, and for the sake of public interest.

Snowden sought asylum in Russia once he was charged with espionage, and stayed there when President Barack Obama denied him a pardon. When he began the conference call, one of the ACP moderators asked where he was and Snowden said he was in his studio.

About 1,300 college-age journalists and their advisers had to be content with that answer. While he wasn’t at liberty to give us the information we craved, it was worth it to see his face light up after his introduction.

Once the applause died down, Snowden said he could tell reporters were one group of people who still respected him. As he addressed this demographic, Snowden gave his insights on journalism.

He reminded the students journalists decide how issues are represented in the media, especially in his own case acting as a whistleblower source.

Snowden said competitive reporting is vital for the public, because it brings people better stories. That’s coming from someone who is living in exile because of competitive journalism and government policies.

I didn’t expect Snowden to be full of himself, but it was so powerful to see someone quite literally step down and admit he was smaller than the cause, that he wasn’t the star of the story.

“People die; policies last forever,” Snowden said.

He continually referred to himself as a “high school dropout” and admitted he thought the NSA story would last about a week.

Snowden said critics called him naïve for his faith in the press to follow the facts and his views on the government, but he negated them saying he released the information for the sake of public interest.

“If you’re not willing to do something for your country because you’re afraid to be called a few bad names, you actually don’t care that much,” Snowden said.

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