NSA leaker Edward Snowden recently participated in a web-based Q&A for the British Guardian using the Twitter hashtag “#AskSnowden.” Snowden provided some interesting new details but left a number of questions unanswered. Here are 13 question I would have asked Snowden if I were a government spook and had the chance to “debrief” him.
1) You wrote that “the US Government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me.” Do you have any specific, credible reason to believe agents of the U.S. government are trying to “murder” you? If so, what is it? #AskSnowden
2) Is there a history of cardiovascular problems in your family, and of sudden massive coronary events in particular? #AskSnowden
3) You said:
The “US Persons” protection [from NSA eavesdropping] in general is a distraction from the power and danger of this system. Suspicionless surveillance does not become okay simply because it’s only victimizing 95% of the world instead of 100%. Our founders did not write that “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all US Persons are created equal.
When you joined as a contractor, were you aware that the National Security Agency was created with the explicit task of collecting foreign signals intelligence? And that this aspect of its operations are deeply enshrined in law and policy? Do you oppose the collection of intelligence from oversees per se, and did you at the time you took a contractor job at the NSA? If so, why did you take the job? #AskSnowden
4) It certainly appears that there were a number of channels available to you to disclose this information without violating the law. Namely, you would have been protected if you disclosed it to the DOD inspector general, or to members of Congress. Why didn’t you avail yourself of these opportunities? #AskSnowden
5) You told Glenn Greenwald, “I wanted to fight in the Iraq war because I felt like I had an obligation as a human being to help free people from oppression,” but later accused Vice President Dick Cheney of “deceitfully engineering a conflict that has killed over 4,400 and maimed nearly 32,000 Americans, as well as leaving over 100,000 Iraqis dead.” When did your views on the Iraq War change? And how did that affect your decision to take a variety of jobs with the U.S. intelligence community starting in 2004? #AskSnowden
6) You were asked twice whether you would consider trading classified information to the Chinese government for asylum in the future. You did not give an unequivocal “no” in either instance. Why not? #AskSnowden
7) Would you say you’re a man who likes routine? Wake up at the same time every day? Take the same routes to and from your hotel, that sort of thing? #AskSnowden
8) You said that “Obama’s campaign promises and election gave me faith that he would lead us toward fixing the problems” with the surveillance state, but that your faith was ultimately misplaced. When did you become convinced that Obama was not up to the task? Was it before his reelection? If so, why did you not elect to leak in 2012, when it could have shaped the election debate on national security? #AskSnowden
9) You also blamed Obama for failing to end “the kind of human rights violations like we see in Guantanamo, where men still sit without charge.” Were you aware of Guantanamo when you joined the Army? When you joined the CIA? The NSA? In what way did your opinions about the “human rights violations” there affect your decision to become a part of the U.S. national-security apparatus? #AskSnowden
10) Considering your strong objections to broad swaths of U.S. national-security policy beyond PRISM, did you make national-security officials aware of your objections when obtaining your security clearance or jobs with the Army, CIA, or NSA? Did you mislead or lie to them about those objections?
11) Do you have thoughts about the foreign-intelligence-gathering, domestic-surveillance, and human-rights practices of the People’s Republic of China? If so, would you state them for the record, and in advance of a possible extradition request?
12) William Binney, who resigned from the NSA over a surveillance program in 2001, said that although you “performed a really great public service to begin with,” you are “transitioning from whistleblower to a traitor” by exposing other programs — such as efforts to penetrate Chinese computer networks — to which you had no direct access. How would you respond to Binney’s charge? #AskSnowden
13) Although you have said “it would be foolish” to surrender yourself to authorities if “you can do more good outside of prison than in it,” you also said that “this country is worth dying for.” Considering this, could you move two steps to your left, and hold still for a second? #AskSnowden