Edward Snowden, the man who leaked top secret National Security Agency documents that exposed mass surveillance and espionage programs in 2013, was interviewed by Last Week Tonight host John Oliver on HBO – the same network that will broadcast Laura Poitras’s Oscar-winning documentary Citizenfour based on the leaks.
The British comedian traveled all the way to Russia, where the whistleblower fled to escape prosecution, and grilled Snowden in what could perhaps qualify as the most difficult interview of his life so far.
“How many of those documents have you actually read?” Oliver asked his guest.
“I do understand what I turned over,” Snowden answered nervously.
“There’s a difference between understanding what’s in the documents and reading what’s in the document because when you’re handing over thousands of NSA documents the last thing you’d want to do is read them,” Oliver shot back, adding the redacted version of the documents published by The New York Times let “people to see that something was being used in Mosul on al-Qaeda.”
“That is a problem,” Snowden returned.
“Well, that’s a f***up,” exclaimed Oliver to which Snowden replied: “It is a f***up, and those things do happen in reporting. In journalism, we have to accept that some mistakes will be made. This is a fundamental concept of liberty.”
“Right. But you have to own that then,” Oliver argued. “You’re giving documents with information you know could be harmful, which could get out there.”
This remark rendered Snowden speechless, however, there was more to come.
Also Read: Do We Need Another Edward Snowden?
Oliver later showed Snowden a video of people being interviewed in Times Square who didn’t have a clue about who Edward Snowden is or what he did.
In order to enlighten the oblivious folks, who, the host claimed were more upset when 4Chan celebrity nude hack emerged, Oliver requested Snowden to explain NSA’s snooping programs with the help of “d*** pics.”
As expected, hilarity ensued. What began as a truly grueling exchange turned into one of the funniest interviews for Snowden.
After the episode was aired, this is what John Oliver tweeted:
Surprise!— John Oliver (@iamjohnoliver) April 6, 2015