The Corner

Snowden in Q&A: Obama Should Establish Special Investigator to Review Crimes of His Presidency

Edward Snowden, the increasingly infamous NSA leaker, participated in a Q&A on the Guardian’s website this morning — and he didn’t exactly cover himself in glory.

Here are some highlights:

On the NSA surveillance in general, Snowden opined that “the ‘US Persons’ protection 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.’”

He cautioned that “bathtub falls and police officers kill more Americans than terrorism, yet we’ve been asked to sacrifice our most sacred rights for fear of falling victim to it.”

When asked what he would say to others that are in a position to leak classified information that would improve the public’s knowledge of civil-liberties violations by the intelligence community, Snowden responded only that “this country is worth dying for.”

He explained that he fled the country for Hong Kong because the U.S. government “immediately and predictably destroyed any possibility of a fair trial at home” and proclaimed him “guilty of treason.” Snowden also expressed the opinion that “Wikileaks is a legitimate journalistic outlet” that operates “in accordance with a judgment of public interest.”

Snowden offered assurances that he has not been in contact with the Chinese government nor does he intend to disclose sensitive information to China. “Ask yourself,” he encouraged readers, “if I were a Chinese spy, why wouldn’t I have flown directly into Beijing? I could be living in a palace petting a phoenix by now.” (Apparently he knows something about China’s secret menagerie of mythical creatures that we don’t.)

Near the conclusion of the Q&A, Snowden explained the timing of his whistleblowing. There was no great epiphany that led him to make the NSA’s activities known, he said, but rather “it was seeing a continuing litany of lies from senior officials to Congress — and therefore the American people — and the realization that that Congress, specifically the Gang of Eight, wholly supported the lies that compelled me to act.” 

Snowden also offered the Obama administration advice on how to proceed. The president has “an opportunity to appeal for a return to sanity, constitutional policy, and the rule of law,” he said. He proposed that Obama personally call for “a special committee to review these interception programs, repudiate the dangerous ‘State Secrets’ privilege, and, upon preparing to leave office, begin a tradition for all Presidents . . . by appointing a special investigator to review the policies of their years in office for any wrongdoings.” 

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