Edward Snowden doesn’t care that Neil Patrick Harris made a joke about him committing treason. As he told Redditors in an AMA session earlier today:
I don’t think it was meant as a political statement, but even if it was, that’s not so bad. My perspective is if you’re not willing to be called a few names to help out your country, you don’t care enough.
With that out of the way, Snowden—along with filmmaker Laura Poitras, who won an Oscar last night for the Snowden-doc Citzenfour, and journalist Glen Greenwald— was able to talk about stuff that actually matters, including how to keep the conversation about privacy in the news throughout the 2016 elections. A few highlights:
WHAT WOULD SNOWDEN HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY?
In retrospect Snowden wishes he opened up about the NSA secrecy program earlier than he did: “Had I come forward a little sooner, these programs would have been a little less entrenched, and those abusing them would have felt a little less familiar with and accustomed to the exercise of those powers.”
HOW CAN CITIZENS MAKE THEIR GOVERNMENTS TAKE THEIR RIGHT TO PRIVACY SERIOUSLY?
Snowden urges privacy and anti-secrecy activists to put the pressure on government officials to take privacy seriously through typical measures like “organizing.” But unsurprisingly, he seems to put stock in more drastic measures, like civil disobedience:
[W]hen we look back on history, the progress of Western civilization and human rights is actually founded on the violation of law. America was of course born out of a violent revolution that was an outrageous treason against the crown and established order of the day. History shows that the righting of historical wrongs is often born from acts of unrepentant criminality. Slavery. The protection of persecuted Jews.
But even on less extremist topics, we can find similar examples. How about the prohibition of alcohol? Gay marriage? Marijuana?
SO DOES THAT MEAN WE SHOULD JUST BECOME POT-SMOKING, GAY ANARCHISTS?
Not exactly. Snowden says “we can devise means, through the application and sophistication of science” to keep government from making decisions about privacy through better encryption from major companies. It seems difficult to imagine companies increasing regulation if not pushed by government, but Snowden points to the “invisible” work of engineers pushing companies like Google to step it up with privacy. The company “encrypted the backhaul communications between their data centers to prevent passive monitoring,” says Snowden, one of the positive changes resulting from his work.
WILL PRIVACY MATTER TO CANDIDATES IN THE 2016 ELECTION?
Not if Democrats pick Hillary, says Greenwald:
“She’s the ultimate guardian of bipartisan status quo corruption, and no debate will happen if she’s the nominee against some standard Romney/Bush-type GOP candidate. Some genuine dissenting force is crucial.”
WHAT’S NEXT FOR POITRAS AFTER SCORING AN OSCAR?
There’s more to come from the original Hong-Kong shoot that became the basis of Citizenfour and a whole other film idea in development based on an interview with Julian Assange:
“On the first day we met Ed, Glenn conducted a long interview (4-5 hours) that is extraordinary. I also conducted a separate interview with Ed re: technical questions. The time constraints of a feature film made it impossible to include everything. I will release more.”