The first videos of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden have surfaced since he received asylum in Russia. The footage, provided by WikiLeaks, was taken during the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence awards ceremony.
The video fragments of a meeting, attended by the former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, former NSA executive Thomas Andrews Drake and former FBI agent Coleen Rowley, Jesselyn Radack of the Government Accountability Project, and Sarah Harrison of WikiLeaks – all whistleblowers in their own respects – were released by WikiLeaks on Friday.
In the first video appearance since he was granted asylum in Russia, Snowden spoke about US government transparency and dangers to democracy caused by the NSA mass spying programs.
“This is not about any sort of particular program, this is about a trend in the relationship between the governing and the governed in America,” Snowden said speaking about the government transparency situation in the US. “That is increasingly coming into conflict with what we expect as a free and democratic people. If we can’t understand the policies and the programs of our government, we cannot grant our consent in regulating them.”
“As someone very clever said recently, we don’t have an oversight problem in the US we have an undersight problem.”
The problem has grown up to a point where Americans have “an executive, the Department of Justice, that’s unwilling to prosecute high officials who lied to Congress and the country on camera but they’ll stop at nothing to prosecute someone who told them the truth,” Snowden added.
Snowden has expressed his satisfaction that people around the globe are starting to understand mass surveillance doesn’t increase safety at all.
“People all over the world are realizing that these programs don’t make us more safe, they hurt our economy, they hurt our country they limit our ability to speak and think and live and be creative, to have relationships, to associate freely.”
There is a huge difference between surveillance programs aimed at increasing security and Big Brother mass surveillance, the NSA leaker added.
“There’s a far cry between legal programs, legitimate spying, legitimate law enforcement where it’s targeted, it’s based on reasonable suspicion, an individualized suspicion, and a warranted action – and a sort of dragnet mass surveillance that puts entire populations under a sort of eye that sees everything, even when it’s not needed.”
Although it is known that the ceremony took place in Moscow, the exact location remains a mystery for security reasons. In an exclusive interview with RT Julian Assange said Edward Snowden is safe in Russia, but the fates of journalists who helped him and published his leaks are now of more concern for WikiLeaks.
After a meeting with Snowden, the four whistleblowers – former NSA executive Thomas Andrews Drake, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, former FBI agent Coleen Rowley and Jesselyn Radack of the Government Accountability Project – all met in RT’s to share their thoughts on Snowden and tell their stories.
RT photo / Semyon Khorunzhy
Of Snowden, Jesselyn Radack said that “he looked great. He seemed very centered and brilliant, smart, funny, very engaged. I thought he looked very well.”
Ray McGovern, called Snowden “an extraordinary person” who has “no regrets” for his actions.
Thomas Andrews Drake is a former NSA senior executive and a whistleblower indicted in 2010 for espionage after leaking documents to the press that alleged that the intelligence organization had committed fraud, waste and abuse against the American people. For his whistleblowing activities, Drake was honored in 2011 with the Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling and co-recipient of the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence award.
In the studio he recalled his experience being a whistleblower.
“I disclosed high crimes and misdemeanors by the US government while at the National Security Agency (NSA). That involved both secret surveillance and massive fraud, waste and abuse. And no regrets at all in blowing the whistle, recognizing that I paid a very high price,” Drake told RT.
Coleen Rowley is a former FBI agent and whistleblower. In 2002, Rowley testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee revealing problems facing the US intelligence community by highlighting some of the pre 9/11 intelligence lapses.
“When you saw this 180-degree switch to the war paradigm and the use of intelligence rather than judicial process, due process, you know, the law of interrogation – I had to speak out and explain the failures of 9/11.” Rowley told RT.
For her activity TIME magazine chose her as one of three whistleblower persons of the year.
Former ethics adviser to the Department of Justice, Jesselyn Radack, became a whistleblower after she exposed the FBI for committing violations in their interrogation of John Walker Lindh, an alleged Taliban fighter captured in 2001 in Afghanistan, without an attorney present. She also exposed the Department of Justice for allegedly attempting to suppress that information. “The justice department was willing to cut corners to prosecute people,” she told RT.