Edward Snowden, the exiled American who stole classified information from the National Security Agency and gave it to the press, thinks cellphones are killing privacy as we know it and President Donald Trump simply wants to be liked.
Snowden spoke on Monday from Russia with Brian Williams, the host of MSNBC’s “The 11th Hour,” ahead of the release of his new memoir, "Permanent Record." This is the second time Williams has interviewed Snowden. In 2014, Williams traveled to Moscow to meet with Snowden in person for the former CIA employee’s first interview with an American television network.
"Permanent Record" reveals new details about Snowden’s decision to leak classified information in 2013 to journalists at The Guardian and The Washington Post about the NSA’s bulk collection of phone and internet metadata from U.S. citizens.
Snowden defended his actions as he has in previous interviews. He stressed that his goal was not to destroy the NSA, but instead “reform it.”
In the years since fleeing the United States, Snowden said he has grown increasingly concerned about the way disinformation is infecting American politics. He expressed concern for a world he sees becoming “increasingly fractured,” adding that the idea that feelings matter more than the facts is “toxic to democracy.”
“We can’t have a conversation about where we are going,” Snowden said, “if we can’t agree on where we are, if we can’t agree on what is happening.”
Snowden also expressed concerns about the information cell phones are collecting and distributing, arguing that the devices are destroying individual privacy.
He warned that governments are increasingly using the same methods and techniques to access cell phones as criminal hackers.
“Anything you can do on that device, the attacker — in this case, the government — can do,” Snowden claimed. “They can read your e-mail, they can collect every document, they can look at your contact book, they can turn the location services on.”
“They can see anything that is on that phone instantly,” he continued, “and send it back home to the mothership.”
Snowden also warned that digital devices like cell phones are using metadata and algorithms to track people’s daily lives, and that the information can be collected, intercepted, and used by both companies and governments alike.
“They’re selling our future,” Snowden said. “They’re selling our past, they’re selling our history our identity and, ultimately, they are stealing our power and making our stories work for them.”
Asked about Donald Trump, he said the chaos that characterizes the Trump era is tied to the “aggressive and offensive things” Trump says. Snowden added that he believes Trump is “actually quite simple to understand.”
Snowden said he believes the president is simply hoping people will like him. “Unfortunately,” he added after a brief pause, “that produces a lot of negative effects.”