The Snowden files — the inside story of the world’s most wanted man | Luke Harding | TEDxAthens



dnsa specifically targets the communications of everyone it ingests some by default the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don't threaten our national security I'm just another guy who sits there day to day in the office watches what's happening and goes this is something that's not our place to decide the public needs to decide whether these programs and policies are right or wrong it's entirely appropriate for a program to exist to look at foreign data what Snowden is trying to draw attention to is the degree to which we are on a road to total surveillance the work we do is addressing directly threats to this country to our way of life to this country and to people who live here you can't come forward against the world's most powerful intelligence agencies and be completely free from risk because there's such powerful adversaries that no one can meaningfully oppose them if they want to get you they'll get you in time it'sa merits that it was the Prime Minister who instructed Britain's most senior civil servant to tell the Guardian newspaper to destroy a computer which helped files from the whistleblower Edward Snowden we were faced effectively with an ultimatum from the British government that if we didn't hand back the material or destroy it they would move to law I didn't think that we had Snowden's consent to hand the material back and I didn't want to help the UK authorities know what he had given us the paper which had other copies of the Snowden files overseas agreed to take an angle grinder to the computer while the intelligence agents watched I think the plain fact is that what has happened has damaged national security and in many ways the Guardian themselves admitted that when they agreed when asked politely by my national security adviser and cabinet secretary to destroy the files they had they went ahead and destroyed those files in America the White House spokesman was asked would Obama ever do such a thing that's very difficult to imagine scenario in which there would be appropriate I love this country do you love this concrete how do you answer that we live in a democracy in the most of the people working on this story are British people who have families in this country who love this country I'm slightly supposed to be asked the question but yes we are patriots and one of the things we are patriotic about is the nature of the democracy in the nature of a free press and the fact that one can in this country discuss and report these things I think that the public is owed an explanation of the motivations behind the people who make these disclosures that are outside of the democratic model when you are subverting the power of government that that's a fundamentally dangerous thing to democracy in this directive I have taken the unprecedented step of extending certain protections that we have for the American people to people overseas which will limit the duration that we can hold personal information while also restricting the use of this information I don't want to live in a world where everything that I say everything I do everyone I talk to every expression of love creativity or love or friendship is recorded hello it's terrific to be here in Athens I can't believe that Theo stole my t-shirt but anyway it's great to be here my name is Luke Harding I'm a journalist on the Guardian and I was one of the reporters who worked on the incredible Edward Snowden story and I think if I were standing here in front of you two years ago or I'd sort of tried to sell this as a book idea to my literary agent and I'd said there's a 29 year old American he lives in Hawaii he works for the National Security Agency the world's most secret spy organization Oh his girlfriend's a pole dancer he's stolen hundreds of thousands of top-secret documents and flown to Hong Kong where he's he's given to journalists I think my literary agent would have said look that's just so ridiculous that will never ever happen but actually that's precisely what did happen in 2012 Edward Snowden then completely obscure now of course world-famous decided that he was going to blow the whistle he become increasingly disillusioned with American spying and he felt that in the years after 9/11 that the the enormous ly powerful American security state had stopped spying on the bad guys on terrorists on al Qaeda and had satisfying on everybody on you on American citizens on Europeans and so on and so he came up with this kind of incredible plan basically to share secret information he decided he would leak it to journalists the problem was he was in Hawaii he didn't know any journalists but he like Glenn Greenwald who blogged on civil liberties and was a columnist on my newspaper The Guardian and in autumn of 2012 he sent a kind of very cryptic email to Glenn Greenwald saying I am a senior member of the intelligence community I may have something of interest and then I interviewed Glenn for my book in Rio de Janeiro and Glenn is one of these people who is perennial II busy he he lives in a tropical rainforest he and his partner have got about 12 stray dogs you talked to him he's on the phone he's got four chat windows open he's got a kind of mutt jumping on his head and he he saw the email he didn't really do anything about it and then so Snowden tried again a couple of weeks later he made an encryption video a kind of tutorial for dummies for for Glenn Greenwald to try and kind of reach through to him showed him how to download encryption software said that you need a very good password whenever you're doing anything kind of digital and Snowden came up with a suggestion which was and I kid you not Margaret Thatcher is 100% sexy I don't know if Greece now can remember Margaret Thatcher but I assure you that is not true but but anyway Margaret Thatcher is 100% sexy and incredibly um Glenn didn't do it and so Snowden who was basically trying to leak more intelligence material than any wars in history must have been deeply frustrated and he tried a different track which was to reach out to Laura Poitras who was a documentary filmmaker based in Berlin whom he trusted and they had a kind of a kind of very kind of ginger kind of correspondence because Laura was worried that she was being entrapped Snowden called himself citizen four and they swapped information and he basically explained that he felt American spying was unconstitutional that it was illegal and he wanted to to meet him to do something about it and basically events at the beginning of last year they kind of went into fast-forward by a spring of last year's Snowden was ready to do this leak and told Laura that he would meet her and Laura flew to the US with Glenn and a third member wonderful colleague of mine called you and McCaskill who's a Scottish reporter on the Guardian I I don't know if you watch Star Trek in Greece but he sounds like Scotty the original Scotsman from Star Trek he says kind of I rather than yes but he's also a brilliant brilliant reporter and the three of them flew to Hong Kong and they met with Snowden in the mirror hotel initially Glen and Laura and what was astonishing about this meeting and it's the beginning of my book is that they had no idea who Snowden was they only had his name and they hadn't searched his name in Google because that was too dangerous they just had a rendezvous point which was a kind of plastic crocodile in a kind of shopping strip next to the hotel and so they see this figure holding a Rubik's Cube this was part of the kind of protocol who comes shambling towards them and that expected a sort of CIA guy in his 60s with a blue blazer gold glasses dandruff you know like off of the Bourne conspiracy and instead they get this kind of student who Glenn said you know he looked barely old enough to shave that was it was Snowden they went upstairs and they began talking and it quickly became clear that Snowden was indeed not just a source but probably the greatest journalistic source ever and you and McCaskill also interviewed Snowden we kind of collaborated together on this book and we journalists involved on this story we did sort of spy craft as well but but very very badly kind of sub Hollywood spy craft and so you and have been told that if Snowden was genuine he should tap out on his text phone the Guinness is good and if he was fake the Guinness is bad so so the greatest leak in history that the switch was flicked when when Ewan on the Tuesday night of this extraordinary Hong Kong week typed out the Guinness is good and that was it and then we started publishing a series of stories in London and in New York about the fact that Americans phone records were all being secretly collected that about the prison program which then they wanted heard of but essentially that the NSA was hacking into the server's of Yahoo of Google of all the digital platforms we use all the time and it was a kind of it was a kind of roller coaster I was part of the team in London that was dealing with this and pretty quickly we came into conflict with the British authorities now you saw on the video you saw David Cameron who is is not a great Prime Minister he went to Eton for those of you who don't know it's it's the most privileged expensive private school in the UK and he's someone who's used to getting his own way and he was basically fed up that we were publishing this material and he two weeks on after we started publishing he kind of pointed to the most senior civil servants in the British government a guy calls to Jeremy Heywood and I think he sort of said basically so Jeremy deal with these rotors from The Guardian deal with them and so so Jeremy came to our offices in in London in Kings Cross and basically threatened us with legal action and said that if if we unless we stopped sort of publishing stories we had to return this material we would be hauled up before a judge and possibly even closed down and we explained a num'rous with Jim I ever explain that this was pointless because this material already existed in Berlin with reporters in Rio with the New York Times and so on and so Jeremy said this is the authentic voice of aristocratic Britain said essentially kind of the Prime Minister thinks the Guardian is a lot more important than some American bloggers some American bloggers being Glenn green will the most famous journalist on the planet and then he added and this is the killer line you should feel flattered the Prime Minister thinks you are important so that was the British government's response to this sensational story we continued publishing I was in the kind of secret bunker what we tried to do was what Snowden had told us to do which was to publish stories about the mass surveillance of civilians of high public importance not about operational matters terrorism Afghanistan Iraq and so on but this brought us into a kind of deepening conflict with a British government and eventually we were told unless you smash real computers up we will we will close you down and two middle-aged spies from GCHQ as the British equivalent of the NSA came to the Guardian on a quiet Saturday morning and we symbolically agreed to destroy our hard drives which you saw there and it was it was a surreal episode they told us to by drills they said by face masks they produce something which looked like a small microwave oven called a degausser which destroys magnetic data and we said we're not going to use your degauss oh we don't trust you and they said yes you will it costs thirty thousand pounds and we said okay we'll use your degauss so so we smash this stuff up and that was the end of the Snowden files and I mean I think it was kind of it was I write in my book I describe it as kind of part Stasi and part pantomime but I think for people who care about press freedom it was very chilling and the extraordinary thing was that the two spies had spent two weeks taking out our building and they left with presents from Hamleys the London toy toy store for their children um back to the provinces where the spy agency is headquartered and I subsequently talked to one that spies in about this and he said that he wasn't so upset about the book but he was upset about the implication that he was provincial so provincialism you know being the worst kind of offence so what we know thanks to Snowden is is a terrific Amman I mean I think Snowden has done us an enormous service I think he's a he's a major historical figure I think we all heard him a debt I mean we know I don't know how many people have one of these I guess everybody has one of these right so Snowden I mean the great genius of Snowden was that he actually turned over documents you didn't really assert so we know now the iPhone is the most superlative spying device the NSA boasts and its internal powerpoints that people who have iPhones as zombies so you're all zombies and the NSA can remotely turn off your turn on your microphone it's actually happened to me if they do that then your battery goes down very quickly you go from zero you go from full to zero and about kind of in about 25 minutes they collect your web searches they collect your your text messages your emails and also your geolocation data in other words there's a complete record of where you've been if you go through your privacy settings you can find that it's all being kind of collected and so we've had a kind of enormous debate over the last year on the one hand I think politically not a huge amount has changed they've been some minor reforms from the Obama administration I would say the British government is still in denial the Germans are furious because and get a Merkel whom we saw dressed as a Nazi earlier on her phone was bugged by the NSA for 10 years and for very understandable historical reasons the Germans absolutely understand privacy and how important privacy is but um not much concrete lives will change but I I think that we is sort of citizens we at least can now have a kind of proper meaningful debate with our governments about the boundaries between privacy and national security and I'd be interested to know for example whether the NSA spied on the Greek Prime Minister or previous Greek Prime Minister's almost certainly the answer is yes I'm interested to know also how much the Greek government collaborates still with the NSA and sharing its sharing your data with with America but I think my message for this kind of lovely audience is is twofold I would say despite all the Snowden revelations stay cheerful love each other I would suggest let's not be too kind of scared but I think it's also good to kind of take steps to safeguard our data I mean Snowden's great advice was if you have an iPhone to put it in the fridge I've also discovered a cocktail shaker is very good jodan if you have cocktail shakers here in Athens but you know put it in the cocktail shaker it works as a Friday cage and I would say use encryption if you can I think encryption works and is is terrific and just one final kind of story when I was I'm one of the reasons I care so much about the whole kind of idea of privacy is that I spent four years in Russia working for the Guardian as the Moscow bureau chief and there it was kind of hacked by the KGB I had unpromising young men in black leather jackets following me around whenever I made a joke about Vladimir Putin on the telephone someone was listening and the line would go like this I had people breaking into my flats really it was a kind of badly read and KGB dramas so I've had experience of demonstrative Russian spying but I've also had experience of American spying as well after I saw Glenn Greenwald in Rio last year from my book I all sorts of weird stuff happens for anyone who met Glenn Greenwald and I was writing my manuscript back in the English countryside and I wrote something very disparaging about the NSA very rude about the NSA and I watched my computer as my paragraph was remotely deleted from right to left kind of like that and I just thought but this went on for five or six times I've repaired of two months to the point where I'd actually leave notes for my mystery editors saying look I'm really not very happy that you like this that you're doing this please there delete stuff and if it had been Hollywood's you know I'd have got a mysterious sort of disembodied reply but I didn't I didn't I didn't get a reply but very unusual all writers expect people to criticize their books after their publish to be criticized when you're still writing it is something Rainier so I would say thank you very much I think privacy is a fundamental human right I think Edward Snowden is a great person he's in difficult situation in Moscow I think we are we are in his debt I think we should thank it was Stan thank you you

20 thoughts on “The Snowden files — the inside story of the world’s most wanted man | Luke Harding | TEDxAthens

  1. The new 5G radiation so called internet ,fast gaming bs,is a spy system that will kill insects, birds,bees then us. kids will die of cancer, then us in 8,to 12 years. will effect 70% worlds population . crazy.'The 5G rollout is absolutely insane' Dr Martin Pall

  2. The NSA has no doubt that Snowden is a die hard patriot. Think about it. They turned off his passport and stranded him in MOSCOW! You don't strand a traitor with state secrets in Moscow! But you CAN isolate a patriot somewhat from the free press there.

  3. This is what happens when unelected bureaucrats that have been in these spy agencies for years have no accountability or oversight.

  4. " . . . . . and furthermore let me say that . . . . . " (zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz)

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