NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden said on Tuesday that if Donald Trump is sincerely concerned about the government’s ability to listen in on his private communications, he should fix the NSA mass surveillance programs that collect data on every American.
Snowden, speaking remotely from Moscow, was interviewed by The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill at the South by Southwest Conference in Austin, Texas, for Scahill’s Intercepted podcast.
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Snowden did not validate Trump’s wild accusation that President Obama had “tapped” the wires in Trump Tower. “If Donald Trump or anyone else wants us to take this seriously, they have to show evidence,” Snowden said. “And the fact that they have not despite the severity of this allegation means that they’re trying to make political hay — I suspect — out of something that affects all of us, which is that mass surveillance is making all of us vulnerable.”
Snowden explained that the NSA’s surveillance dragnet currently allows any analyst with an appropriate clearance to search a massive database of communications for phones or IP addresses related to anyone, including the president. He was describing the Upstream program conducted under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, in which the NSA collects a vast number of American communications from internet cables entering and exiting the United States, ostensibly only “targeting” foreigners.
“If Donald Trump wants to take this seriously, he needs to fix the problem that everyone in America’s communications are being collected right now, without a warrant, and they’re going into the bucket, and they’re protected by very lax internal policy regulations, and this simply is not enough,” said Snowden.
“The problem is not, ‘Oh, you know, poor Donald Trump.’ You’re the president. You should be asking questions about ‘Why was this possible in the first place?’ and ‘Why haven’t I fixed it?’”
Far from trying to eliminate the NSA’s authorities under Section 702, Trump supports having Congress extend the programs past this year, when they would otherwise expire — while at the same time continuing President Obama’s refusal to give the legislative branch even a ballpark estimate of what proportion of domestic communications they capture.
Listen to the entire interview on the Intercepted podcast.