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Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor whose leaks revealed previously classified information about the U.S. surveillance practices, held a live chat on the freesnowden.is website Thursday. Snowden made an argument for the end of mass data collection, but said not all spying is bad.
Questions were submitted on Twitter using the #AskSnowden hashtag. The website hosting the Q&A wrote Snowden was "expected to give his first reaction" to President Barack Obama's national security speech last week, in which the president announced a series of proposals that would reduce some of the latitude given to the NSA in the name of homeland security.
In reply to a question regarding the timing of Obama's speech last week, Snowden yet again attacked the NSA's mass collection practices, indicating they are illegal and should be ended.
"When even the federal government says the NSA violated the constitution at least 120 million times under a single program, but failed to discover even a single “plot,” it’s time to end “bulk collection,” which is a euphemism for mass surveillance. There is simply no justification for continuing an unconstitutional policy with a 0% success rate."
"Not all spying is bad. The biggest problem we face right now is the new technique of indiscriminate mass surveillance, where governments are seizing billions and billions and billions of innocents’ communication every single day," Snowden said, adding: "The NSA and the rest of the US Intelligence Community is exceptionally well positioned to meet our intelligence requirements through targeted surveillance — the same way we’ve always done it — without resorting to the mass surveillance of entire populations."
Snowden replied: "Yes. What makes our country strong is our system of values, not a snapshot of the structure of our agencies or the framework of our laws. We can correct the laws, restrain the overreach of agencies, and hold the senior officials responsible for abusive programs to account."
In his reply, Snowden emphasized that "whistleblower protection laws in the US do not protect contractors in the national security arena. There are so many holes in the laws, the protections they afford are so weak, and the processes for reporting they provide are so ineffective that they appear to be intended to discourage reporting of even the clearest wrongdoing.
"My case clearly demonstrates the need for comprehensive whistleblower protection act reform. If we had had a real process in place, and reports of wrongdoing could be taken to real, independent arbiters rather than captured officials, I might not have had to sacrifice so much to do what at this point even the President seems to agree needed to be done."
Snowden also defended himself against a Reuters report claiming the former contractor used login credentials and passwords provided unwittingly by colleagues.
"With all due respect to Mark Hosenball, the Reuters report that put this out there was simply wrong. I never stole any passwords, nor did I trick an army of co-workers," Snowden replied.