The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man by Luke Harding at TEDxAthens (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of British journalist Luke Harding’s TEDx Talk on The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man at TEDxAthens conference. To learn more about the speaker, read the full bio here.

(Video) Edward Snowden: The NSA specifically targets the communications of everyone. It ingests them by default.

Barack Obama: The U.S. is not spying on ordinary people, who don’t threaten our national security.

Edward Snowden: I’m just another guy, who sits there day to day in the office watching 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.

Alan Rusbridger: What Snowden is trying to draw attention to is the degree to which we are on a road to total surveillance.

Andrew Parker: 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.

Edward Snowden: You can’t come forward against the world’s most powerful intelligence agencies and be completely free from risk, because they are such powerful adversaries that no one can meaningfully oppose them. If they want to get you, they’ll get you in time.

News anchor: ….that it was the Prime Minister who instructed Britain’s most senior civil servant to tell The Guardian newspaper to destroy a computer, which held files from the whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Alan Rusbridger: 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’d given us.

Female reporter: 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.

Reporter: In America, the White House spokesman was asked, “Would Obama ever do such a thing?”

Josh Earnest: It’s very difficult to imagine a scenario in which that would be appropriate.

Man: I love this country, do you love this country? How do you answer that question?

Alan Rusbridger: We live in a democracy and most of the people working on this story are British people who have families in this country, who love this country. I am slightly surprised 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, the nature of free press and the fact that one can in this country discuss and report these things.

Edward Snowden: I think that the public is owed an explanation of the motivations behind the people who made these disclosures that are outside of the democratic model. When you are subverting the power of government that’s a fundamentally dangerous thing to democracy.

Barack Obama: In this directive, I have taken the unprecedented step of extending certain protections that we have to 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.

Edward Snowden: I don’t want to live in a world where everything that I say, everything I do, everyone I talk to, every expression of creativity or love or friendship is recorded.Video concludes]

 

Luke Harding – British Journalist

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 from The Guardian and I’m 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 try to sell this as 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 spying organization. Oh, his girlfriend is a pole dancer, he’s stolen hundreds of thousands of top secret documents and fled to Hong Kong where he’s given them to journalists.”

I think my literary agent would have said, “Luke, that is just so ridiculous. That would never ever happen.” But actually that’s precisely what did happen.

In 2012, Edward Snowden then completely obscure, now of course world famous, decided he was going to blow the whistle. He was becoming increasingly disillusioned with American spying, and he felt that in the years after 9/11, the enormously powerful American security state had stopped spying on the bad guys, on terrorists, on Al-Qaeda, and has started spying on everybody, on you, on American citizens, on Europeans and so on. And so he came up with this incredible plan basically to share secret information. He decided he’d leak it to journalists. The problem was, he was in Hawaii; he didn’t know any journalists. But he liked Glenn Greenwald, who blogs on civil liberties and was a columnist in The Guardian.

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