This is no ordinary interview.
This is the first time ever that Edward Snowden – a former National Security Agency (NSA) employee who brought the Unites States government to its knees last year – has spoken to an American news network.
The interview comes almost after a year after Snowden revealed himself as the source of the leaks that exposed U.S. surveillance programs at home and abroad, such as PRISM, Boundless Informant and XKeyscore.
While President Barack Obama’s administration has come under national and international criticism for violating constitutional rights and invading the privacy and sovereignty of foreign countries, the NSA whistleblower has become a controversial figure all over the world with people questioning whether his actions were heroic or treasonous.
The U.S. has filed criminal charges against Snowden – currently residing in Russia on temporary asylum – that include theft of government property and unauthorized communication of national defense information.
In the course of one year, he has made several media appearances but the NBC interview with Brian Williams remains his first ever interaction with a U.S. news channel.
Here are the most important points from his interview:
NSA Can Remotely Turn Your Cell Phone On And Use It For Surveillance:
Perhaps the most damning revelation from his interview was how easily intelligence agencies can control and use our cell phones.
“The NSA, the Russian Intelligence Service, the Chinese Intelligence Service, any intelligence service in the world that has significant funding and a real technological research team, can own that phone the minute it connects to their network. As soon as you turn it on, it can be theirs. They can turn it into a microphone, they can take pictures from it, they can take the data off of it.”
Snowden added that NSA has the ability to control such devices remotely, even when switched off, but that only applies to targeted cell phones.
Snowden Was Trained “As A Spy” But Not By Or For Russia:
Refuting the notion that he was a low-level analyst at the NSA, Snowden said that he "was trained as a spy" and had worked undercover overseas for U.S. government agencies.
"Well, it's no secret that the U.S. tends to get more and better intelligence out of computers nowadays than they do out of people," Snowden told Williams.
"I was trained as a spy in sort of the traditional sense of the word in that I lived and worked undercover overseas - pretending to work in a job that I'm not - and even being assigned a name that was not mine."
He also clarified that he wasn’t working for the Russian government, adding he had never even met the country’s president Vladimir Putin.
“I have no relationship with the Russian government at all. I’m — I’ve never met — the Russian president. I’m not supported by the Russian government, I’m not taking money from the Russian government. I’m not a spy, which is the real question.”
He Recounted his September 11 Experience:
"I've never told anybody this. No journalist. But I was on Fort Meade on September 11th,” Snowden said.
He revealed that he was an 18-year-old working right outside the NSA headquarters and that his grandfather worked for the F.B.I. at the time.
“I take the threat of terrorism seriously. And I think we all do. And I think it's really disingenuous for — for the government to invoke — and sort of scandalize our memories, to sort of exploit the — the national trauma that we all suffered together and worked so hard to come through to justify programs that have never been shown to keep us safe, but cost us liberties and freedoms that we don't need to give up and our Constitution says we should not give up."
He Blames The U.S. For Making Him Choose Russia – Where He Didn’t Intend To Go:
Edward Snowden's new refugee documents granted by Russia is seen during a news conference in Moscow – Reuters
Apparently, it’s the U.S. that – indirectly – sent Snowden to Russia.
“I personally am surprised that I ended up here. The reality is I never intended to end up in Russia,” Snowden said. “I had a flight booked to Cuba onwards to Latin America and I was stopped because the United States government decided to revoke my passport and trap me in Moscow Airport.”
“So when people ask why are you in Russia, I say, ‘Please ask the State Department.’”
He Calls Himself A “Patriot”:
Human rights proponents including activists and prominent figures like Tim-Berners Lee, Jimmy Wales and Julian Assange have appreciated Snowden. However, there are many who call him a traitor and a defector.
As far as the whistleblower is concerned, he believes he is a true patriot.
“Being a patriot doesn't mean prioritizing service to government above all else. Being a patriot means knowing when to protect your country, knowing when to protect your Constitution, knowing when to protect your countrymen from the -- the violations of and encroachments of adversaries.”
Watch the complete interview (via NBC) in the video below: