The former National Security Agency systems analyst, Edward Snowden, said that the mass surveillance programs used by the United States to tap into phone and internet connections around the world are making people less safe, the Associated Press reports.
In short video clips posted by the WikiLeaks website on Friday, Oct 11 Snowden said that the NSA’s mass surveillance, which he disclosed before fleeing to Russia, “puts us at risk of coming into conflict with our own government.”
A U.S. court has charged Snowden with violating the Espionage Act for disclosing those programs.
Snowden described them as a “dragnet mass surveillance that puts entire populations under sort of an eye that sees everything even when it’s not needed.”
“They hurt our economy. They hurt our country. They limit our ability to speak and think and live and be creative, to have relationships and to associate freely,” Snowden said.
The videos are the first of Snowden speaking since July 12, when the former NSA analyst was shown at a Moscow airport pleading with Russian authorities to grant him asylum, which they did on Aug. 1. That decision has strained the relations between the U.S. and Russia, and President Barack Obama called off a meeting with President Putin at a summit hosted by Russia in September.
Snowden said the U.S. government was “unwilling to prosecute high officials who lied to Congress and the country on camera, but they’ll stop at nothing to persecute someone who told them the truth.”
In a note accompanying the videos, WikiLeaks said Snowden spoke on Wednesday in Moscow as he accepted the Sam Adams Award, named for a CIA analyst during the Vietnam War who accused the U.S. military of deliberately underestimating the enemy’s strength for political purposes, and given annually by a group of retired U.S. national security officers.
Snowden's father, Lon Snowden, arrived in Moscow on Thursday and said he hoped to see his son. He said he had no direct contact with Edward Snowden but that he felt "extreme gratitude that my son is safe and secure and he's free."
Russian authorities and the Russian lawyer who is assisting Snowden, Anatoly Kucherena, have not disclosed his location. Snowden had apparently been trying to reach Latin America, and his asylum in Russia can be extended annually.
"I am not sure my son will be returning to the U.S. again. That's his decision, he is an adult," Lon Snowden said. "I am his father, I love my son and ... I certainly hope I will have an opportunity to see my son.
"I really have no idea what his intentions are," he said, but added that his understanding was that Snowden had not been involved in the publication of any information since he arrived in Russia and was "simply trying to remain healthy and safe."
Meanwhile, Edward Snowden is reportedly going to seek employment in Russia soon.
“I think that he is going to seek employment,” Kucherena said, adding that Snowden currently lives on his previous savings and donations.
“He lives quite modestly in Russia,” the lawyer added.