In January 2013, Laura Poitras started receiving anonymous encrypted e-mails from Citizenfour, who claimed to have evidence of illegal covert surveillance programs run by the NSA in collaboration with other intelligence agencies worldwide. Five months later, she and reporters Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill flew to Hong Kong for the first of many meetings with the man who turned out to be Edward Snowden. She brought her camera with her. The resulting film is history unfolding before our eyes.
* * *
In 2006, I was placed on a secret watchlist after making a film about the Iraq War. In the following years I was detained and interrogated at the US border dozens of times.
My next film was about Guantánamo and the war on terror.
This film is the third part of a trilogy about America post 9/11.
LAURA POITRAS: (READING) “Laura, at this stage, I can offer nothing more than my word. I am a senior government employee in the intelligence community. I hope you understand that contacting you is extremely high risk and you are willing to agree to the following precautions before I share more. This will not be a waste of your time. The following sounds complex but should only take minutes to complete for someone technical. I would like to confirm out of email that the keys we exchanged were not intercepted and replaced by your surveillance. Please confirm that no one has ever had a copy of your private key and that it uses a strong passphrase. Assume your adversary is capable of one trillion guesses per second. If the device you store the private key and enter your passphrase on has been hacked, it is trivial to decrypt our communications. Understand that the above steps are not bulletproof and are intended only to give us breathing room. In the end, if you publish the source material, I will likely be immediately implicated. This must not deter you from releasing the information I will provide. Thank you, and be careful. Citizenfour.”
[RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL]
(MAN SPEAKING OVER RADIO, INDISTINCT)
MAN: Bottom line is… surveillance means that there are facts that we no longer abide to. If you take away the surveillance, there are no facts that the government can manufacture.
MAN 2: Ah, that’s right, and this is all about creating an independent record. To me, this goes to the question of independently verifying what the government is doing. That’s why I keep going back to that question.
MAN: More with David Sirota after CBS news, traffic, and weather on KKZN Denver/Boulder, AM 7…
GLENN GREENWALD [Reporting for salon.com, 2011]: Hey, can you hear me? I am here, David, how are you? Well I would just point… start by pointing to what Barack Obama himself said about those questions when he was running for the office that he now occupies. In December of 2007, he said, quote, “The president does not have the power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” So by Obama’s own words, the president does not have the power that he is now exercising under the Constitution. And as far as why it matters, in… on August 1, 2007, when he laid out his reasons why he was running for office and why he thought it was so important to change the way we were doing things, he said, quote, “No more ignoring the law when it’s inconvenient. That is not who we are. We will again set an example for the world that the law is not subject to the whims of stubborn rulers.”
(GREENWALD CONTINUES, AUDIO FADES)
In December 2012, an anonymous source contacts Glenn Greenwald. They are not able to establish a secure communication method, so their correspondence stalls.
A month later. I start receiving anonymous encrypted emails.
WOMAN: You asked why I picked you. I didn’t. You did.
The surveillance you’ve experienced means you’ve been “selected,” a term which will mean more to you as you learn about how the modern SIGINT system works.
For now, know that every border you cross, every purchase you make, every call you dial, every cell phone tower you pass, friend you keep, article you write, site you visit, subject line you type, and packet you route is in the hands of a system whose reach is unlimited, but whose safeguards are not. Your victimization by the NSA system means that you are well aware of the threat that unrestricted secret police pose for democracies. This is a story few but you can tell.
I move to Berlin to protect my film footage from being seized at the US border. When the first emails arrive. I increase security.
William Binney is a legendary NSA crypto-mathematician. During the Cold War, he analyzed nuclear threats. In the 90s, he shifted his focus to the internet and developed methods of mass data analysis.
(CAR DOOR SHUTS)
BINNEY: Thank you for inviting me here to give me the opportunity to express my story. Let me give you some of my background. I spent about four years in the military, and then I went into NSA. Directly, so… So I ended up with about 37 years of service combined. Most of it was a lot of fun, I tell you, it was really a lot of fun, breaking these puzzles you know, solving problems and things like that. And that’s really what I did, I fundamentally started working with data, looking at data and data systems and how you do that. I was developing this concept of analysis that you could lay it out in such a way that it could be coded and executed electronically. Meaning you could automate analysis. And it has to do with metadata and using metadata relationships. So that was the whole, that was my whole theme there at NSA. That was eventually, that’s what I ended up to. I was the only one there doing that, by the way. So any rate, 9/11 happened, and it must have been right after, a few days, no more than a week after 9/11 that they decided to begin actively spying on everyone in this country. And they wanted the back part of our program to run all of the spying. All right? So, that’s exactly what they did. And then they started taking the telecom data and expanded after that. I mean the one I knew was AT&T, and that one provided 320 million records every day. That program was reauthorized every 45 days by what I call the “yes committee,” which was Hayden and Tenet and the DOJ. The program was called Stellar Wind. So first I went to the House Intelligence Committee and the staff member that I personally knew there, and she then went to the chairman of the committee, Nancy Pelosi was the minority rep. They were all briefed into the program at the time, by the way, and all the other programs that were going on, including all these CIA programs. I wasn’t alone in this. There were four others out of NSA, and we were all trying to work internally in the government over these years trying to get them to come around to being constitutionally acceptable and take it into the courts and have the courts’ oversight of it too. So we, we naively kept thinking that could, uh, that could happen. And it never did. But any rate, after that, and all the stuff we were doing they decided to raid us, to keep us quiet, threaten us, you know. So we were raided simultaneously, four of us. In my case, they came in with guns drawn. I don’t know why they did that, but they did, so…
The NSA has built the world’s largest repository for intercepted communications in Bluffdale, Utah. I started filming the site in 2011 when construction began.
WOMAN: Laura, I will answer what I remember of your questions as best I can. Forgive the lack of structure. I am not a writer, and I have to draft this in a great hurry. What you know as Stellar Wind has grown. SSO, the expanded Special Source Operations that took over Stellar Wind’s share of the pie, has spread all over the world to practically include comprehensive coverage of the United States. Disturbingly, the amount of US communication ingested by NSA is still increasing. Publicly, we complain that things are going dark, but in fact, our accesses are improving. The truth is that the NSA has never in its history collected more than it does now. I know the location of most domestic interception points and that the largest telecommunication companies in the US are betraying the trust of their customers, which I can prove. We are building the greatest weapon for oppression in the history of man, yet its directors exempt themselves from accountability. NSA director Keith Alexander lied to Congress, which I can prove. Billions of US communications are being intercepted. In gathering evidence of wrongdoing, I focused on the wronging of the American people, but believe me when I say that the surveillance we live under is the highest privilege compared to how we treat the rest of the world. This I can also prove. On cyber operations, the government’s public position is that we still lack a policy framework. This too is a lie. There is a detailed policy framework, a kind of Marshall Law for cyber operations created by the White House. It’s called Presidential Policy Directive 20 and was finalized at the end of last year. This I can also prove. I appreciate your concern for my safety, but I already know how this will end for me, and I accept the risk. If I have luck and you are careful, you will have everything you need. I ask only that you ensure this information makes it home to the American public.
[Congressional hearing with NSA director Keith Alexander – 2012]
HANK JOHNSON: Does the NSA routinely intercept American citizens’ emails?
KEITH ALEXANDER: No.
JOHNSON: Does the NSA intercept Americans’ cell phone conversations?
JOHNSON: Google searches?
JOHNSON: Text messages?
JOHNSON: Amazon.com orders?
JOHNSON: Bank records?
JOHNSON: What judicial consent is required for NSA to intercept communications… and information involving American citizens?
ALEXANDER: Within the United States, that would be the FBI lead. If it was a foreign actor in the United States, the FBI would still have the lead and could work that with… with NSA or other intelligence agencies as authorized. But to conduct that kind of… of collection in the United States, it would have to go through a court order, and the court would have to authorize it. We are not authorized to do it, nor do we do it.
In 2006. technician Mark Klein revealed that the NSA was tapping into AT&T’s network in San Francisco. Customers filed a lawsuit.
Years later, the litigation is still at the preliminary phase.
WOMAN: All rise. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is now in session. Please be seated. Good morning, and welcome to the Ninth Circuit. The first case for argument is Jewel versus National Security Agency. You may proceed.
May it please the court, Kevin Bankston, for Carolyn Jewel and her fellow plaintiff appellants in Jewel v. NSA. Your Honors, plaintiffs have specifically alleged that their own communications and communications records have been acquired by the government. But the District Court found that we had failed to allege facts that differentiated the injury that our plaintiffs suffered from the injuries suffered by every other AT&T user whose communications and records have been acquired by the government, basically concluding that so long as everyone is being surveilled, no one has standing to sue. However, to deny standing to persons who are injured simply because many others are also injured would mean that the most injurious and widespread government actions could be questioned by nobody.
MAN: Do you have anything concrete that in fact a specific communication of your client was intercepted?
BANKSTON: We have evidence that all the communications passing between AT&T’s network and other networks in their Northern California facility have been intercepted. And so that would necessarily include the Internet communications of our Northern California plaintiffs.
Okay, thank you.
Thank you, Your Honors.
May it please the court, I am Thomas Byron from the Department of Justice here on behalf of the government defendants. We think this litigation need not be resolved in federal court in light of the oversight of the political branches, both legislative and executive, which provides a better opportunity for oversight and resolution of the concerns raised concerning nationwide policies of alleged surveillance, uh, in these complaints.
MAN: Even if it’s revealed that one or more of the plaintiffs had email or telephone conversations intercepted that had nothing to do with national security?
Your Honor, I don’t know that anyone necessarily would have standing to raise the particular claims at issue in these two cases. We think instead that the kinds of claims at issue here against these defendants are those that are better suited to resolution before the… the representative branches of our government.
MAN: So what role would the judiciary have if your approach is adopted?
Judge Pregerson, I think that…
I mean, we just get out of the way, is that it?
BYRON: Well, Judge Pregerson, I think that there is a narrow category, a subset of cases, in which it may be appropriate to step aside for that narrow category of cases.
But the judiciary plays a role…
To be sure, Judge Pregerson…
…in our system.
BYRON: Yes, Your Honor. And we don’t mean to diminish that.
You know, you’re asking us to abdicate that role.
BYRON: No, Your Honor, um, but it is a question of this court’s discretion whether to reach that issue. We do think that there is simply no way for the litigation to proceed without risk of divulging those very questions of privileged information that would cause, as the Director of National Intelligence has explained, exceptionally grave damage to national security if disclosed.
[NEW YORK CITY]
[Occupy Wall Street security training]
JACOB APPELBAUM: Um, thanks for having me. If anybody has any questions, like I said, basically just raise your hand and I’ll try to call on you as soon as I possibly can. So who here actually feels like they are under surveillance pretty regularly?
(MAN SPEAKS INDISTINCTLY)
APPELBAUM: Everyone inside of Occupy. How many people have been arrested and had their, at their court date, they had their phone taken into the back room? How many people in here had their retina scanned? Wow. Um, so you guys are actually in a sense the canaries in the coal mine. Right, because the incentives are all lined up against you. Anybody see on the subway, “Link your MetroCard to your debit card,” right? Like, auto-refill? This is a concept which is key to everything we’ll talk about today. And it’s called linkability: Take one piece of data and link it to another piece of data. So, for example, if you have your MetroCard and you have your debit card, you have those things and you can draw a line between them, right? So that’s, like, not a scary thing, except your bank card is tied to everything else that you do during the day. So now they know where you’re going, when you make purchases. So when they decide to target you, they can actually recreate your exact steps. With a MetroCard and with a credit card, alone, like literally where you go and what you buy, and potentially by linking that data with other people on similar travel plans, they can figure out who you talk to and who you met with. When you then take cell phone data, which logs your location, and you link up purchasing data, MetroCard data, and your debit card, you start to get what you could call “metadata” in aggregate over a person’s life. And metadata, in aggregate, is content. It tells a story about you which is made up of facts, but is not necessarily true. So for example, just because you were on the corner and all those data points point to it, it doesn’t mean you committed the crime. So it’s important to note that if someone has a perception of you having done a thing, it will now follow you for the rest of your life. So just keep in mind that what happens to you guys, for example, with fingerprints and retinal scans and photographs, that is what is going to happen to people in the future when they resist policy changes and when they try to protest in a totally constitutionally protected way.
[Senate hearing with James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence – 2013]
MR. WYDEN: This is for you, Director Clapper, again on the surveillance front, and I hope we can do this in just a yes or no answer because I know Senator Feinstein wants to move on. So, does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?
CLAPPER: No, sir.
MR. WYDEN: It does not?
CLAPPER: Not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently, perhaps, collect, but not wittingly.
After months of anonymous communication, the source agrees to meet. I travel to New York and wait for instructions.
[Email from April 2013]
WOMAN: The encrypted archive should be available to you within seven days. The key will follow when everything else is done. The material I provide, and investigative effort required will be too much for any one person. I recommend at a very minimum, you involve Glenn Greenwald. I believe you know him. The plain text of the payload will include my true name details for the record… though it will be your decision as to whether or how to declare my involvement. My personal desire is that you paint the target directly on my back. No one, not even my most trusted confidante, is aware of my intentions, and it would not be fair for them to fall under suspicion for my actions. You may be the only one who can prevent that, and that is by immediately nailing me to the cross rather than trying to protect me as a source. On timing, regarding meeting up in Hong Kong. The first rendezvous attempt will be at 10:00 a.m. local time on Monday. We will meet in the hallway outside of a restaurant in the Mira Hotel. I will be working on a Rubik’s Cube so you can identify me. Approach me, and ask if I know the hours of the restaurant. I’ll respond by stating that I’m not sure, and suggest you try the lounge instead. I’ll offer to show you where it is, and at that point we’re good. You simply need to follow naturally.
[HONG KONG, CHINA]
[June 3, 2013]
MAN: As far as positioning, I mean, if you want us to sit in any particular way or whatever.
WOMAN: You know, I’m gonna go there, to try to get better light.
Minutes after meeting, I set up the camera and start filming an encounter that will unfold over eight days.
GREENWALD: So, um, there’s, you know, so many different enormous stories just, that are kind of stand alone stories, that even, like, you know, certain things about an individual document that can just be their own story. And I just want to start churning those stories out. I basically woke up this morning and already started writing stories. So I’m hoping to, you know, start publishing like within a day or two days.
GREENWALD: As long as you’re good with that.
GREENWALD: Um, and… So, as far as like the stuff we have to talk about, I’m kind of dichotomizing it, between stuff that I’d like to talk to you about in terms of like the documents and the content, and Laura has a bunch of questions about that as well, sort of working through the documents, getting your take on a lot of this stuff that, you know, will help me understand it better. But then also the sort of “you” story, like the who you are, what you’ve done, why you’ve done what you’ve done.
GREENWALD: And I’d love to do that first.
GREENWALD: Um, in part because you’re the only one who can do that. So I’d just like to get that done so that it’s done, um, and also because, you know, it might be that you want to do that early. Because… Who knows what could happen… It might be necessary, we might choose to have that done early. Tell me your thoughts on where you are with that…
SNOWDEN: The primary one on that, I think I’ve expressed that a couple times online, is I feel the modern media has a big focus on personalities.
SNOWDEN: And I’m a little concerned the more we focus on that, the more they’re gonna use that as a distraction. And I don’t necessarily want that to happen, which is why I’ve consistently said, you know, “I’m not the story here.”
(PEN CLATTERS ON FLOOR)
SNOWDEN: Um… Nervous, huh?
GREENWALD: No, it’s a very, very cheap pen, that just with the slightest force broke, go ahead.
SNOWDEN: But uh, yeah, anything I can do to help you guys get this out I will do. I don’t have, uh, any experience with media, with how this works, so I’m kind of learning as I go.
GREENWALD: Right, so I just want to get a sense of why did you decide to do what you’ve done.
SNOWDEN: So, for me, it all comes down to state power against the peoples’ ability to meaningfully oppose that power. And I’m sitting there, uh, every day getting paid to design methods to amplify that state power. And I’m realizing that if, you know, the policy switches that are the only things that restrain these states, were changed, there… you couldn’t meaningfully oppose these. I mean you would have to be the most incredibly sophisticated, technical actor in existence. I mean, I’m not sure there’s anybody, no matter how gifted you are, who could oppose all of the offices and all the bright people, even all the mediocre people out there with all of their tools and all their capabilities. And as I saw the promise of the Obama administration be betrayed and walked away from and in fact, actually advance…
GREENWALD: Uh-huh, uh-huh.
SNOWDEN: …the things that had been promised to be sort of curtailed and reigned in and dialed back, and actually get worse, particularly drone strikes, which I also learned at NSA, we could watch drone videos from our desktops. As I saw that, that really hardened me to action.
POITRAS: In real time?
SNOWDEN: In real time. Yeah, you… it’ll stream a lower quality of the video to your desktop. Typically you’d be watching surveillance drones as opposed to actually like you know murder drones where they’re going out there and bomb somebody. But you’ll have a drone that’s just following somebody’s house for hours and hours. And you won’t know who it is, because you don’t have the context for that. But it’s just a page, where it’s lists and lists of drone feeds in all these different countries, under all these different code names, and you can just click on which one you want to see.
GREENWALD: Right, but, so if your self-interest is to live in a world in which there’s maximum privacy, doing something that could put you into prison, in which your privacy is completely destroyed, is sort of the antithesis of that. How did you reach the point where that was a worthwhile calculation for you?
SNOWDEN: I remember what the Internet was like before it was being watched, and there’s never been anything in the history of man that’s like it. I mean, you could again have children from one part of the world having an equal discussion where, you know, they were sort of granted, um, the same respect for their ideas and conversation, with experts in a field from another part of the world, on any topic, anywhere, anytime, all the time. And it was free and unrestrained. And we’ve seen, uh, the chilling of that and the cooling of that and the changing of that model, toward something in which people self-police their own views, and they literally make jokes about ending up on “the list” if they donate to a political cause or if they say something in a discussion. Uh, and it’s become an expectation that we’re being watched. Um, many people I’ve talked to have mentioned that they’re careful about what they type into search engines because they know that it’s being recorded. And that limits the boundaries of their intellectual exploration. Uh… and I’m… I am more willing to risk imprisonment, or any other negative outcome, personally, than I am willing to risk the curtailment of my intellectual freedom and that of those around me whom I care for, uh, equally, as I do for myself. And again, that’s not to say that I’m self-sacrificing, because it gives me… I feel good in my human experience to know that I can contribute to the good of others.
The Guardian, where Glenn Greenwald is now working, also sends investigative reporter Ewen MacAskill.
MACASKILL: Could you elaborate on that?
SNOWDEN: So, I don’t know how much of the programs and the actual technical capacities everybody’s talked to you about, but there’s an infrastructure in place in the United States and worldwide… that NSA has built, in cooperation with other governments as well… that intercepts basically every digital communication, every radio communication, every analog communication that it has sensors in place to detect. And with these capabilities, basically, the vast majority of human and computer-to-computer communications, device-based communications, which sort of inform the relationships between humans, are automatically ingested without targeting. And that allows individuals to retroactively search your communications based on self-certifications. So, for example, if I wanted to see the content of your email, or, you know, your wife’s phone calls, or anything like that, all I have to do is use what’s called a “selector,” any kind of thing in the communications chain that might uniquely or almost uniquely identify you as an individual. And I’m talking about things like email addresses, IP addresses, phone numbers, credit cards, um, even passwords that are unique to you that aren’t used by anyone else. I can input those into the system, and it will not only go back through the database and go, “Have I seen this anywhere in the past?” It will, basically put an additional level of scrutiny on it, moving into the future, that says, “If this is detected now or at anytime in the future I want this to go to me immediately, and alert me in real time” that you’re communicating with someone. Things like that.
MACASKILL: So I don’t know who you are or anything about you.
SNOWDEN: Okay. Um… I work for Booz Allen Hamilton, a defense contractor, I’m sort of on loan to NSA. I don’t talk to a Booz Allen boss, I don’t get tasking from Booz Allen, it’s all from NSA.
MACASKILL: Sorry, I don’t know your name.
SNOWDEN: Oh, sorry! I, uh… my name is Edward Snowden. I go by Ed. Um… Edward Joseph Snowden is the full name.
MACASKILL: And where are you from?
SNOWDEN: I’m originally, I was born in North Carolina, uh, small town, Elizabeth City. There’s a Coast Guard station there. I’m from a military family. But I spent most of my time growing up around Fort Meade in Maryland.
MACASKILL: And your family, what’s the consequences for them?
SNOWDEN: This is actually what has made this hardest. My family doesn’t know what’s happening. They’re unaware. I don’t think I’ll be able to keep the family ties that I’ve had for my life, um, because of the risk of associating them with this. And I’ll leave, you know, what to publish on this and what not to publish to you guys. I trust you to be responsible on this. Um, but basically, the closer I stay to my family, the more likely they are to be leaned on, you know.
MACASKILL: So you don’t want me to report this?
GREENWALD: I mean, we definitely want to do whatever we can not to include them or bring them into the mix.
MACASKILL: Yeah, yeah, sure, that’s fine, I won’t…
GREENWALD: I’m sorry, let me interrupt you. Can we just stop for a second and do the documents and then go back to that? Does that makes sense?
Sure. What do I need?
Do I need an email address that we’re using, or…?
SNOWDEN: Well, so you can, you can send them… once you’ve encrypted it, you can send it from whatever you think is appropriate. The main thing is you’ve got to encapsulate all of this in a way that it can’t be decrypted and read when it’s in transit across the network…
SNOWDEN: …or on either of the end points that it’s received at.
Just so you know, these documents are basically all gonna be uploaded in like 48 hours, 72 hours, whatever…
SNOWDEN: This is simply… you want to get in the process of doing this for everything, because it seems hard, but it’s not hard, his is super easy.
So just walk me through it, and… Okay. Show me… show me the actual folder structure where these files are first. How many documents did you say there were?
SNOWDEN: Well, while you’re working did you want to…?
MACASKILL: Okay, go ahead. How many documents are we talking about? Because when The Guardian did WikiLeaks, technical people set up a system so they were available for anybody to see. And I just wondered if it’s possible to do the same thing?
SNOWDEN: That would be the ideal end game, um, but because some of these documents are legitimately classified in ways that could cause harm to people and methods… I’m comfortable in my technical ability to protect them, I mean you could literally shoot me or torture me, and I could not disclose the password if I wanted to. Um, you know, I have the sophistication to do that. There are some journalists that I think could do that, but there are a number of them that couldn’t. But the question becomes, can an organization actually control that information in that manner without risking basically an uncontrolled disclosure? But I do agree with that. Honestly, I don’t want to be the person making the decisions on what should be public and what shouldn’t. Which is why, rather than publishing these on my own, or putting them out openly, I’m running them through journalists. So that my bias, you know, and my things… Because clearly I have some strongly held views, are removed from that equation, and the public interest is being represented in the most responsible manner.
SNOWDEN: Actually, given your sort of, you know, geographic familiarity with the UK and whatnot, I’d like to point out that GCHQ has, uh, probably the most invasive…
MACASKILL: I’ve heard about that.
SNOWDEN: …network intercept program anywhere in the world.
MACASKILL: Yeah, yeah.
SNOWDEN: It’s called Tempora, T-E-M-P-O-R-A, and it’s the world’s first “full take,” they call it, and that means content in addition to metadata, on everything.
GREENWALD: Um, so this is what I’d like to do in terms of scheduling, if it’s good with everybody else. Um, are you… do you feel like you’re done with what you…?
MACASKILL: I am done.
GREENWALD: I’m anxious to go back, get those articles done. And then there’s a bunch of documents that aren’t about those first two or three stories that I’d like to spend time with you…
SNOWDEN: Sure, yeah…
GREENWALD: …you know, kind of going over it. Um, and…
SNOWDEN: I’m not going anywhere!
GREENWALD: You’re available? You want to check your book first?
SNOWDEN: Yeah! Let me… uh… let me check my schedule.
GREENWALD: Is that good for you, Laura?
POITRAS: It’s great.
Hello? Yes. My meal was great, thank you very much. No, I still have some left, and I think I’m gonna be eating it later. So, uh, you can just leave me alone for now. Okay, great. Thank you so much. Have a good one. Bye. Let’s fix that real quick. So uh, another fun thing, I was telling Laura about this: all these new VOIP phones, they have little computers in them, and you can hot mic these over the network… all the time, even when the receiver’s down. So as long as it’s plugged in, it can be listening in on you. And I hadn’t even considered that earlier, but yeah. Okay. There are so many ways this could be… Everything in here is gonna be on the public record at some point. We, we should operate on that, that basis, because…
GREENWALD: Yeah, we are.
SNOWDEN: Do you have your air-gapped machine with you?
GREENWALD: I do, I do.
SNOWDEN: You can pop that out. Do you have an understanding or commitment on when you guys are going to press with the first stories?
MACASKILL: I suppose seven or eight in the morning in London.
SNOWDEN: Uh-huh, okay. Now let’s see here. Oh, hey, look, there’s the other one. Pro tip, let’s not leave the same SD cards in our laptops forever, in the future. Did you know this was still kicking around in your laptop?
GREENWALD: Yeah, um, that was the…
SNOWDEN: Okay, just making sure.
GREENWALD: Okay, yeah.
SNOWDEN: This is that. Right there. You will have a new one that looks exactly identical that’s a different archive, so you might want to take a Sharpie to it, or something. Could you pass me my magic mantle of power?
POITRAS: Mm-hmm. I’m gonna go pick up…
GREENWALD: Is that about the possibility of…
SNOWDEN: Visual… yeah, visual collection.
GREENWALD: I don’t think at this point there’s anything that will shock us.
GREENWALD: We’ve become pretty… In fact, Ewen said before, he’s like, he’s like “I’m never leaving my room… I’m never leaving anything in my room again, not a single machine.” I was like, “You’ve been infected by the paranoia bug. Happens to all of us!”
SNOWDEN: (LAUGHING) Yeah. The way he said it, he was like, “I would never leave a single device in the room again alone.”
MACASKILL: My bag is getting heavier and heavier.
GREENWALD: That’s your evil influence, Ed.
SNOWDEN: All right, I’m going need you to enter your root password because I don’t know what it is. If you want to use this, you’re more than welcome to. Looks like your root password’s about four characters long anyway, so…
GREENWALD: It’s usually a lot longer, but that’s just a one-time-only thing, right?
SNOWDEN: So it is… uh…
GREENWALD: It had been a lot longer, but ever since I knew that it was just like a one time only session one, I’ve been making it shorter. Is that not good?
SNOWDEN: It’s actually not. I was expressing this with Laura. The issue is, because of the fact that it’s got a hardware mac address and things like that, if people are able to identify your machine, and they’re able to…
POITRAS: This is the fact you’re about to break the most upsetting story…
GREENWALD: Right, that’s true, that’s true.
SNOWDEN: Yeah, so they might kind of prioritize you…
GREENWALD: It’s ten letters. I type very quickly. It actually is ten letters.
SNOWDEN: Okay, so ten letters would be good if they had to brute force the entire keyspace.
SNOWDEN: That would still probably only take a couple days for NSA.
SNOWDEN: That’s a fire alarm.
GREENWALD: Okay. Hopefully it just sounds like a three second test. Or is… do you want to call the desk and ask? I think it’s fine.
SNOWDEN: Yeah, I don’t think it’s an issue, but it’s interesting that it just…
MACASKILL: Did that happen before?
SNOWDEN: Maybe they got mad when they couldn’t listen in to us via the phone anymore.
MACASKILL: Has the fire alarm gone off before?
SNOWDEN: No, that’s the first time that’s happened. Let me see, just in case, they’ve got an alert that goes to… That’s unusual.
GREENWALD: You probably…
SNOWDEN: We might have to evacuate.
GREENWALD: …shouldn’t ignore that. I don’t know.
MACASKILL: It’s not continuous.
GREENWALD: It’s not continuous. No, I’m just saying, if it continues.
POITRAS: And then we go and we meet the guys down in the lobby…
SNOWDEN: Yeah, right? Yeah. Yeah, let’s uh, let’s leave it for now. Let me just finish this up. All right.
SNOWDEN: Not that they’re going to answer, because they probably got like 7,000 calls. Hi, uh, we hear a loud buzzing on the tenth floor, can you tell us what that is?
(WOMAN ON PHONE, INDISTINCT)
SNOWDEN: Oh, okay. Okay great. Thank you. Bye.
SNOWDEN: Fire alarm testing maintenance.
GREENWALD: That’s good. That’s what we wanted to hear.
SNOWDEN: Nice of them to uh… nice of them to let us know about that in advance. Um… I just wanted to give you kind of a quick tour, uh, when Laura was looking at this, she was kind of salivating and couldn’t stop actually reading the documents…
GREENWALD: Right, right. So we’ll try and restrain ourselves without promising that we’ll succeed.
SNOWDEN: Yeah, I just wanted to kind of explain a brief overview of what these are and how they’re organized. Um, the beginning are just some documents of interest. The primary purpose of the second archive is to bring the focus over to SSO, as opposed to uh, PRISM. And this is in general. SSO are the Special Source Operations, those are the worldwide passive collection on networks. They’re both domestic to the US and international.
There’s a lot of different ways they do it, but corporate partnerships are one of the primary things, uh, they do domestically, they also do this with multinationals that might be headquartered in the US they can kind of coerce, or just pay into giving them access. And they also do it bilaterally, with the assistance of certain governments. And that’s basically on the premise that they go, “All right, we’ll help you set this system up if you give us all the data from it.” Um, so yeah…
SNOWDEN: There’s, there’s… There’s a lot more in here than any one person or probably one team could do.
SNOWDEN: Um, XKeyscore DeepDive, XKeyscore in general, and there’s a huge folder of documentation on XKeyscore and how it works, is the front-end system that analysts use for querying that sort of ocean of raw SIGINT that I was telling you about. All of that stuff where you can sort of do the retroactive searches and live searches and get flagging and whatnot, XKeyscore is the front end for that. I’m just gonna show you one slide here ’cause Laura thought it was valuable, and I was talking about kind of how these, uh, capabilities ramp up in sophistication over time. This is kinda nice. As of fiscal year 2011, they could monitor one billion telephone or Internet sessions simultaneously per one of these devices. And they could collect at the rate of about 125 gigabytes a second, which is a terabit.
GREENWALD: That’s just each one of these devices.
SNOWDEN: That’s for each one of these, yeah.
MACASKILL: And how many Tumult machines would there be, then?
SNOWDEN: Uh… per this, back then, there were 20 sites, there’s 10 at DOD installations, but these are all outdated. We’ve expanded pretty rapidly. But still 20 sites, that’s at least 20 billion.
GREENWALD: This all needs to get out, you know I mean? It’s like… just in terms of understanding the capabilities. It’s so opaque.
SNOWDEN: It’s not science fiction. This stuff is happening right now.
GREENWALD: No, that’s what I mean, it’s like, the, the magnitude of it, and… and, like, this is a pretty inaccessible technical document, but even this, like, is really chilling. Do you know what I mean?
GREENWALD: Yeah, I mean we should have… we should be having debates about whether we want governments… I mean, this is massive and extraordinary. It’s amazing. Even though you know it, even though you know that… to see it, like, the physical blueprints of it, and sort of the technical expressions of it, really hits home in like a super visceral way that is so needed.
Six hours later Glenn Greenwald publishes the first story.
MALE ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
An explosive new report is reigniting the concerns that your privacy is being violated to protect America’s security. It reveals a court order giving the National Security Agency blanket access to millions of Verizon customers’ records on a daily basis.
Earlier I had the chance to conduct the first TV interview with the reporter who broke this story wide open: Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian.
Congratulations on the scoop. Explain for our viewers why this is important.
GREENWALD: It’s important because people have understood that the law that this was done under, which is the Patriot Act, enacted in the wake of 9/11, was a law that allowed the government very broad powers to get records about people with a lower level of suspicion than probable cause, the traditional standard. So it’s always been assumed that under the Patriot Act, if the government had even any suspicion that you were involved in a crime or terrorism, they could get a lot of information about you. What this court order does that makes it so striking, is that it’s not directed at any individuals who they believe or have suspicion of committing crimes or are part of a terrorist organization, it’s collecting the phone records of every single customer of Verizon business and finding out every single call that they’ve made, internationally and locally, so it’s indiscriminate and it’s sweeping. It’s a government program designed to collect information about all Americans, not just people where they believe there’s reason to think they’ve done anything wrong.
SNOWDEN: Ah, it’s, it’s a tough situation, you know, hearing that the person that you love, that you’ve spent the decade with, may not be coming back.
POITRAS: What did they ask her?
SNOWDEN: Um, when was the last time she saw me, where am I, um, what am I doing, you know, what does she know about my illness, things like that. Uh… so. Yeah, they’re um… they’re pretty solidly aware. ‘Cause, uh… I’m clearly not at home ill.
SNOWDEN: Hello, let me disconnect from the Internet.
GREENWALD: So, there’s some news?
SNOWDEN: Yes, there was indeed some news. I have config. Today, I think, maybe just a few hours ago?
GREENWALD: What… what kind of people visited?
SNOWDEN: Uh… An H.R. lady, I’m assuming from NSA as opposed to, uh, as opposed to Booz Allen, because she was accompanied by a police officer, which means NSA police. And they were planning to break into my house, which regular police don’t do.
GREENWALD: Does she live there?
SNOWDEN: Yeah, she lives there. So I told her to cooperate fully…
GREENWALD: I can’t find my phone, just one second…
SNOWDEN: You know, don’t worry about herself.
GREENWALD: You know what, I’ll just take out the stuff I wanna use…
GREENWALD: Okay, well look, I mean, this is not a surprising development.
SNOWDEN: Nah, I know, I planned for it, but it’s just, you know, when it’s impacting them and they’re talking to you, it’s a little bit different.
GREENWALD: Absolutely. But it’s possible that they just noticed that you’re missing. I guess it’s not really a possibility.
SNOWDEN: It is, but they’re, I mean…
GREENWALD: Um… Let me just get rid of this.
SNOWDEN: Sorry, I obviously was focused on other things than appearance this morning.
GREENWALD: How was… How did she react? Was she relatively calm about it?
SNOWDEN: She’s relatively calm…
GREENWALD: Does she know anything about what you’re doing and why?
SNOWDEN: She has no idea. And that’s, I mean, I… I feel badly about that, but that’s the only way I could think of where, like, she can’t be in trouble.
GREENWALD: Did you just basically do a, “I have to go somewhere for reasons that I can’t tell you about” kind of thing, or…?
SNOWDEN: I just disappeared when she was on vacation. Um, and I left a note saying, “Hey, I’m going to be gone for a while for work,” which isn’t unusual for me in my business.
SNOWDEN: You know, so…
GREENWALD: Okay, so let me ask you a couple things just quickly. Are they gonna be able to go into your stuff and figure out what you took?
SNOWDEN: Um, in some kind of… some sort of, like, peripheral senses, but not necessarily…
GREENWALD: Not with great specificity.
SNOWDEN: Yes. Because I cast such a wide net. If they do that the only thing they’re gonna do is have a heart attack because they’re gonna go, “He had access to everything.”
SNOWDEN: And they’re not gonna know what specifically has been done. I think they’re gonna start to actually feel a little better, although they’re not gonna be wild about this in any case, when they see that the stories are kind of cleaving to a trend, you know, it’s not like, “Here’s the list of everybody who works everywhere.”
GREENWALD: Right. I also think, you know, they’re gonna be paranoid in the extreme, and assuming all kinds of worst case scenarios, which is gonna, you know, I think make them react in ways that probably aren’t, like, gonna be particularly rational on their part. But, at the same time, there’s… I do think they’re limited for the moment.
SNOWDEN: I agree, and I mean, I had kinda time to set a stage where we all enjoy at least a minimum level of protection, you know, no matter who we are, who’s involved in this, you know, you’re either a journalist, or you’re either out of jurisdiction, so we have some time to play this before they can really get nasty. I think it’s over, you know, the weeks when they have times, to get lawyers really sort of go, “This is a special situation. How can we interpret this to our advantage?” We… we see them do this all the time, you know, whether it’s drones or wiretapping or whatever, they’ll go, “Well according to this law from the 1840s, you know, with X, Y, or Z authority…” But that takes time. And that takes agreement…
GREENWALD: And also, you know, I mean, I think the more public we are out there too, like as journalists, the more protection that’s gonna give as well. Have you started to give thought to when you’re ready to come forward?
SNOWDEN: I’m ready whenever, um… Honestly, I think there’s sort of an agreement that it’s not going to bias the reporting process. That’s my primary concern at this point. I don’t want to get myself into the issue before it’s gonna happen anyway, and where it takes away from the stories that are getting out.
(POP SONG PLAYS)
WOMAN: (FAINTLY) We’re talking about tens of millions of Americans, who weren’t suspected of doing anything, who were surveilled in this way.
I publish the second story in the Washington Post, together with journalist Barton Gellman.
The Guardian reports on the same NSA program soon after.
MAN: Hold your thoughts for a moment. I want to continue this conversation because these are really important, sensitive issues, and the public out there has a right to know what’s going on.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
Another explosive article has just appeared, this time in the Washington Post. It’s breaking news and it reveals another broad and secret US government surveillance program. The Washington Post and The Guardian in London reporting that the NSA and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading Internet companies, including Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple. The Post says they’re extracting audio, video, photographs, emails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time. Let’s discuss this latest revelation… they’re coming out fast. Bill Binney, former official of the NSA who quit back in 2001, you were angry over what was going on, you are known as a whistleblower right now. Bill, what do you think about this Washington Post story?
BINNEY: Well, I assume it’s just a continuation of what they’ve been doing all along.
BLITZER: So you’re not surprised. Do you have any idea who is leaking this information?
I don’t know who leaked this. I have no doubt that the administration will launch an investigation, not into who approved these programs but into who leaked the information.
MAN 1: I’m not shocked the companies are denying it, I don’t assume…
MAN 2: Do you believe them?
There may be some technical basis on which they can say that we are not actively collaborating or they don’t have what we consider in our own definition to be direct access to our servers but what I do know is that I’ve talked to more than one person who has sat at a desk at a web portal and typed out commands and reached into those servers from a distance. So whatever they want to call that, that’s what’s happening.
MAN 2: Well, what I would call it is the single biggest infringement on American civil liberties probably of all time, isn’t it?
MAN 3: It’s interesting, already you have The New York Times now today saying that the administration has lost all credibility.
The New York Times slammed President Obama for this, and frankly I was used to that. The New York Times used to slam George Bush for protecting the country and for the steps he took. I don’t want us to drop our guard, I don’t want us to be struck again. As we saw in Boston, Anderson, people are willing to sacrifice their civil liberties. People sheltered inside…
MAN 2: How can you believe in freedom, do you think… I mean, try and play Devil’s Advocate for me, when you have secret courts, secret operations like PRISM, secret investigations which go into every spit and cough of every American’s lives, without any member of the American public knowing about it. That’s not freedom, is it?
GREENWALD: In 2008, they eliminated the warrant requirement for all conversations except ones that take place by and among Americans exclusively on American soil. So they don’t need warrants now for people who are foreigners outside of the US, but they also don’t need warrants for Americans who are in the United States communicating with people reasonably believed to be outside of the US. So again, the fact that there are no checks, no oversight about who is looking over the NSA’s shoulder, means that they can take whatever they want. And the fact that it’s all behind a wall of secrecy and they threaten people who want to expose it, means that whatever they’re doing, even violating the law, is something that we’re unlikely to know until we start having real investigations and real transparency into what it is that the government is doing.
Glenn Greenwald, congratulations again on exposing what is a true scandal. I appreciate you joining me.
SNOWDEN: I just heard from Lindsay, and uh, she’s still alive, which is good, and free. My rent checks apparently are no longer getting through to my landlord, uh, so they said if we don’t pay them in five days we’ll be evicted, which is strange because I’ve got a system set up that automatically pays them. Uh, so there’s that, and apparently there’s construction trucks all over the street of my house, so that’s uh… I wonder what they’re looking for. (CHUCKLING) It is… uh, it is an unusual feeling that’s kind of hard to… hard to like describe or… or convey in words, but not knowing what’s going to happen the next day, the next hour, the next week, it’s scary, but at the same time it’s liberating. You know, the, uh… the planning comes a lot easier because you don’t have that many variables to take into play. You can only act and then act again.
MALE REPORTER: Now all these phone calls are being recorded digitally, not for content but for origin and destination, now word the government is going right into the servers of these large Internet companies. How does the government, politically speaking, make the argument that this is essential to national security and not a dramatic overreach in terms of personal privacy?
It’s difficult Matt, because, as Peter was pointing out, overnight we had an extraordinary, late-night… close to midnight… announcement and a declassification from the Director of National Intelligence. They are scrambling. The administration’s already supported strongly by leaders in both parties from the intelligence committees.
SNOWDEN: GCHQ has an internal Wikipedia, at the top secret, you know, super classified level, uh, where anybody working intelligence can work on anything they want.
SNOWDEN: That’s what this is, I’m giving it to you, you can make the decisions on that, what’s appropriate, what’s not. It’s going to be documents of different types, pictures and PowerPoints, Word documents, stuff like that. Um…
MACASKILL: Sorry, can I take a seat?
MACASKILL: Sorry, I get you to repeat, so in these documents they all show…
SNOWDEN: Yeah, there’ll be a couple more documents on that, that’s only one part though. Like, it talks about Tempora and a little more thing, that’s the Wiki article itself. It was also talking about a self-developed tool called UDAQ, U-D-A-Q. It’s their search tool for all the stuff they collect, was what it looked like. It’s going to be projects, it’s going to be troubleshooting pages for a particular tool…
MACASKILL: Thanks. Um… what’s the next step? When do you think you’ll go public?
SNOWDEN: Ah, I think it’s pretty soon, I mean with the reaction, this escalated more quickly. I think pretty much as soon as they start trying to make this about me, which should be any day now.
SNOWDEN: I’ll come out just to go, “Hey, this is not a question of somebody skulking around in the shadows.” These are public issues, these are not my issues, you know, these are everybody’s issues. And I’m not afraid of you, you know. You’re not going to bully me into silence like you’ve done to everybody else. And if nobody else is gonna do it, I will, and hopefully when I’m gone, whatever you do to me, there will be somebody else who’ll do the same thing. It’ll be the sort of Internet principle of the hydra. You know, you can stomp one person, but there’s gonna be seven more of us.
MACASKILL: Yeah. Are you getting more nervous?
SNOWDEN: Um… (LAUGHS) I mean, no. I think, uh… I think the way I look at stress, particularly because I sort of knew this was coming, you know, because I sort of volunteered to walk into it, um… I’m already sort of familiar with the idea. I’m not worried about it. When somebody, like, busts in the door? Suddenly I’ll get nervous, and it’ll affect me, but until they do… I don’t know, you know. I’m eating a little less, that’s the only difference, I think.
GREENWALD: Let’s talk about the issue with, when we’re gonna say who you are.
GREENWALD: This is, you know, you have to talk me through this. Because I have a big worry about this.
SNOWDEN: Okay, tell me.
GREENWALD: Which is that, if we come out and… I know that you believe that your detection is inevitable and that it’s inevitable imminently. There’s, you know, in the New York Times today, Charlie Savage, the fascinating Sherlock Holmes of political reporting, deduced that the fact that there’s been these leaks in succession probably means that there’s some one person who decided to leak…
SNOWDEN: Somebody else quoted you as saying it was one of your readers, and somebody else put another thing…
GREENWALD: So, you know, it’s fine. I want people… I want it to be like, you know, like, this is a person… I want to start introducing the concept that this is a person who has a particular set of political objectives about informing the world about what’s taking place. So I’m keeping it all anonymous, totally, but I want to start introducing you in that kind of incremental way. But… here’s the thing. What I’m concerned is that if we come out and say, “Here’s who this is, here’s what he did,” the whole thing that we talked about, that we’re gonna basically be doing the government’s work for them. And we’re basically going to be handing them, you know, a confession, and helping them identify who found it. Maybe you’re right, maybe they’ll find out quickly, and maybe they’ll know, but is there any possibility that they won’t? Are we kind of giving them stuff that we don’t… or, or…
POITRAS: The possibility that they know but they don’t want to reveal it because they don’t know.
GREENWALD: Or that they don’t know and we’re going to be telling them, like… Is it a possibility that they’re going to need two, three months of uncertainty, and we’re going to be solving that problem for them? Or, let me just say, the or part, maybe it doesn’t matter to you, maybe… (STAMMERING) You’re not coming out because you think inevitably they’re going to catch you, and you want to do it first, you’re coming out because you want to fucking come out. And you wanna be heard.
SNOWDEN: Well, there is that. I mean that’s the thing, I don’t want to hide on this and skulk around, I don’t think I should have to. Um, obviously there are circumstances that are saying that, and I think it is powerful to come out and be like, look, I’m not afraid, you know, and I don’t think other people should either. I was sitting in the office right next to you last week. You know, we all have a stake in this. This is our country. And the balance of power between the citizenry and the government is becoming that of the ruling and the ruled as opposed to actually, you know, the elected and the electorate.
GREENWALD: Okay, so that’s what I needed to hear, that this is not about…
SNOWDEN: But I do want to say: I don’t think there’s a case that I’m not going to be discovered in the fullness of time, it’s a question of time frame. You’re right, it could take them a long time. I don’t think it will. But I didn’t try to hide the footprint because again, I intended to come forward the whole time.
GREENWALD: I’m going to post this morning just a general defense of whistleblowers…
SNOWDEN: That’s fine, yeah.
GREENWALD: …and you in particular without saying anything about you. I’m gonna go post that right when I get back. And I’m also doing like a big fuck-you to all the people who keep, like, talking about investigations. I want that to be… The fearlessness and the fuck-you to, like, the bullying tactics has gotta be completely pervading everything we do.
SNOWDEN: And I think that’s brilliant. Your principles on this I love, I can’t support them enough. Because it’s inverting the model that the government has laid out, where people who are trying to, you know, say the truth skulk around and they hide in the dark and they quote anonymously and whatnot… I say yes, fuck that, let’s just…
GREENWALD: Okay, so here’s the plan then. And this is the thing. I think we just all felt the fact that this is the right way to do it. You feel the power of your choice, you know what I mean? I want that power to be felt in the world. And it is… it’s the ultimate standing up to them. Right, like, “I’m not gonna fucking hide, even for like one second, I’m gonna get right in your face. You don’t have to investigate, there’s nothing to investigate, here I am.”
GREENWALD: You know? And I just think that is just incredibly powerful. And then the question just becomes how do we do this in the right… you know, the perfect way, and that’s my burden. And that’s what I’m gonna… So today is gonna be the story in the morning, assuming that it doesn’t change with The Guardian, it’s gonna be the story in the morning, just to keep the momentum going, just to keep the disclosures coming, a big one at night. Now it’s becoming, like, okay, this is a major leak, and after today, when we post the two things that we’re gonna post, it’s gonna be, “What the fuck is this leak, and who did it,” I guarantee you.
POITRAS: I just want to make sure… move over slightly.
GREENWALD: Do you want me to move a little more over, or, okay.
POITRAS: I just wanna… all right. All right, we’re rolling.
GREENWALD: So let’s just begin with some basic background information, like, just state your name, what position you held in the intelligence community, and… and how long you worked within that community.
SNOWDEN: Okay, um, just so I’m aware of where we’re going, how in depth are we going, just in general, like ‘I’m currently an infrastructure analyst you know, Booz Allen Hamilton, not going through my whole back story…’
GREENWALD: Just like, yeah, summary kind of…
SNOWDEN: Okay. Uh, My name’s Ed Snowden, I’m, uh, 29 years old, I work for Booz Allen Hamilton as an infrastructure analyst for NSA, uh, in Hawaii.
GREENWALD: And what are some of the positions that you held previously within the intelligence community?
SNOWDEN: Uh, I’ve been, uh, a systems engineer, systems administrator, uh, senior advisor, uh, for the, uh, Central Intelligence Agency, solutions consultant and a, uh, telecommunications informations systems officer.
GREENWALD: And what kind of clearances have… have you held, what kind of classification?
SNOWDEN: Uh, Top Secret, uh… Hm… So people in my levels of access for systems administration or as a… a infrastructure analyst, typically have, uh, higher accesses than an NSA employee would normally have. Normal NSA employees have a combination of clearances called TS, SI, TK, and Gamma. Um, that’s Top Secret, uh, Signals Intelligence, Talent Keyhole, and Gamma. And they all, uh, relate to certain things that are sort of core to the NSA mission. As a systems administrator, you get a special clearance called PRIVAC, for Privileged Access, which allows you to be exposed to information of any classification, regardless of what your position actually needs.
[June 10, 2013]
NEWSWOMAN: Just before we go, a reminder of our top story, that’s that the former CIA technical worker Edward Snowden says he’s responsible for leaking information that US authorities had been monitoring phone and Internet data. The US Justice Department confirmed it’s in the first stages of a criminal investigation.
SNOWDEN: Leave it longer or cut it shorter, what do you think? As far as the video that people saw? Am I less identifiable now? Lose it? Cause I can’t go all the way down. It’s still gonna be stubble. I don’t have the blade for closer.
MAN: Will you be talking to any other media about this story today?
MAN: Will you be coming to our office at Associated Press? We’d be interested to ask about where is Snowden now, what his plans are.
I’m not going to talk about that, so unless you have other questions, it’s gonna be a fruitless interview.
What are your plans, please? Are you staying in Hong Kong for the time being?
For a little while.
MAN: And do you have any hopes to write more about this story, or are you stopping new writing about this story?
No, I’m gonna continue to write about it.
MAN: Have you had any pressure from the US authorities about continuing to report on this?
And have you heard anything about what could be the attitude of Hong Kong authorities towards this case, whether they’ve contacted you or asked you anything about the whereabouts of Snowden and whether that is another…
I haven’t heard from the authorities of any government.
MAN: And where do you think the story is going, for you and of course for Snowden, and of course for the US media and the US administration in general?
Well, for me I can tell, I’m gonna continue to report on… do my reporting on what the government has been doing and what I think my readers should know about. Um, as for him, I don’t… I don’t think anyone knows.
SNOWDEN: They could have people come after me or any of their third-party partners. You know, they work closely with a number of other nations. Or, you know, they could pay off the triads. You know, any of their agents or assets, uh… we have a CIA station just up the road, at the consulate here in Hong Kong.
(CHATTER ON TV, INDISTINCT)
WOMAN: (ON TV) Hello, I’m Daniela Ritorto. The top story this hour: facing a criminal investigation, the whistleblower who revealed details on how the US is monitoring phone calls and Internet data goes public. Security forces in Afghanistan say a number of Taliban insurgents have targeted Kabul’s airport. Now it’s time for our newspaper review and looking at what’s making headlines around the world. Let’s start with The Guardian, our top story, which is revealing the identity of the former CIA employee who the paper says leaked information exposing the scale of American surveillance of the Internet. Edward Snowden.
MAN: (ON TV) What a great story.
WOMAN: Kira, Ewen, what do you think?
EWEN: Well, I think it’s a fantastic story… first off, it could be straight out of a John Le Carre novel. I mean, when you read what he did, yes, he got the material. He then decided to go to the place he identified as being very difficult for America to get at him…
SNOWDEN: God damn it.
…which is Hong Kong, because, of course, technically inside China, the one country, two systems policy there, meaning he would get potentially some protection abroad. All very well-planned. It could have been just out of a spy novel. But what about the details?
(TV CONTINUES, INDISTINCT)
SNOWDEN: Well, that could make it worse, but… I don’t know, only shows the lower half of my face.
(TV CONTINUES, INDISTINCT)
MAN: (ON TV) Snowden says he’d become increasingly dismayed by what he saw as the growing power of the NSA, hence his decision to pass on documents which are said to reveal not only that the organization monitored millions of phone calls, but that it had direct access to some of the biggest…
POITRAS: How do you feel?
SNOWDEN: Um… what happens, happens. We’ve, uh, we’ve talked about this. I knew what the risks were. If I get arrested, I get arrested. Um… We were able to get the information, uh, that needed to get out, out. And you and Glenn are able to keep reporting, regardless of what happens to me.
Now what 29-year-old Edward Snowden said that US…
The Guardian newspaper reveals his identity…
…from Washington, David Willis has this.
SNOWDEN: Uh, I’m sorry, who’s asking? Uh, I’m afraid you have the wrong room.
(HANGS UP RECEIVER)
SNOWDEN: Wall Street Journal.
(WOMAN ON PHONE, INDISTINCT)
SNOWDEN: Uh, I’m sorry, say again? Uh, no. No thank you. No calls. I think they have the wrong number. Yeah, no calls. Thank you. Uh, wait, I’m sorry. If it’s uh, if it’s two men from the front desk, they can call, but no outside calls… Wait, actually, just let them through. Wait, wait, ma’am? (WHISPERING) Fuck!
(HANGS UP RECEIVER)
(WOMAN ON PHONE, INDISTINCT)
SNOWDEN: Uh, wait, is it… is it a lawyer? Yeah, no, no, no, I mean the people who are asking, ask them if they are lawyers. Uh, no. Tell her that, uh, she has the wrong number and there’s no Mr. Snowden here.
To avoid the media, we move to my room.
JONATHAN MAN, HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER: Hi, Robert, can you talk right now? I safely got into the room. I’m now safely with the client, okay? So, can we talk together about the plan? Did this application start already or what? Technically? Yeah, but… So technically it hasn’t started yet. Would you mind to talk in speakerphone? Sorry. Hey, Robert. Yeah, hi.
SNOWDEN: Hi, I’m the client.
Hi, Edward, how are you holding up?
SNOWDEN: Uh, pretty good. I’m doing well.
Okay, I just met with the head of the UNHCR here in Hong Kong, and they are aware that you are raising the protection you are entitled to under the UNHCR and and they would like you to come in with us to the UN.
If you come now, it’s lunchtime, but they’re gonna let us in. No one else can get in.
At the UNHCR there are separate exits from the building so we have a good opportunity, if any of the media finds out you’re there…
…you’ll be able to exit a different way from the building.
SNOWDEN: Okay, that’s great. Is it okay if I bring equipment? ‘Cause I’m just kind of going so I can leave in any direction at any time and not come back, if necessary.
Just walk out of there. You don’t have to go back.
Take whatever you want with you, and just go with Mr. Man. I will pick you… he knows where I’m gonna pick you guys up, and then I’ll bring you to the UNHCR.
SNOWDEN: Okay, that sounds good. Thank you, uh, thank you so much for helping me.
He’s quite worried about the next step, about accommodation, where he is going to stay, whether there is something private and he would not be discovered by the police.
Don’t worry about that now. Let’s just get him to the UN.
Okay, I see. Okay, I will give you a call before we start, okay?
Okay, thank you.
Okay, thank you.
(SNOWDEN CLEARS THROAT) So… We don’t have a car.
What I’m thinking… we may ask the concierge to arrange a car, or we just go down and catch a taxi. But it’s quite… The traffic here in Tsim Sha Tsui is quite difficult to get a taxi.
SNOWDEN: Yeah… And so is there a precedent for this, where Hong Kong would extradite someone for political speech?
No, I’m not aware of. But if we have a torture claim or asylum-seeking claim, then they ought, under the law, they ought to give you recognizance for you to stay in Hong Kong because they don’t know where to dump you back yet.
MAN: The president certainly does not welcome the way that this debate has earned greater attention in the last week, the leak of classified information about sensitive programs that are important in our fight against terrorists who would do harm to Americans, is a problem. But the debate itself is legitimate and should be engaged.
Snowden applies for refugee status through the UN and goes underground.
I stay in Hong Kong, hoping to continue filming but realize I am being followed. Six days later, I return to Berlin.
(SOUNDS OF KEYBOARD CLICKING)
ES: Are you there?
LP: Are you ok?
ES: I am.
ES: I don’t think I’ll be able to meet with you guys again for some time. Your profiles are too high.
ES: And now that my handle has been published by the WaPo, NSA may destroy my accounts or block connection attempts.
ES: So we need to re-verify each other
LP: If I could get you a camera, would you be able to film where you are?
ES: Not now. My hosts are very vulnerable people.
ES: I can’t really speak out loud here.
LP: You can’t?
ES: I don’t want to get anybody’s door kicked in
[RIO DE JANEIRO]
(CONVERSING IN PORTUGUESE) “The US Spied on Millions of Brazilian Emails and Phone Calls” I’d like to show you the new document now. You’ll see it much more clearly. This map shows the cables they use to collect the data for PRISM. Here it shows how much they are collecting. The thicker the line, the more they’re collecting. You can see these lines, the cables, are quite thick in the south of Brazil and up north in the Sea of Brazil. So they’re collecting a lot through the PRISM program, which I think is very important because PRISM is Facebook, Skype, YouTube, Yahoo, Hotmail. And it shows a lot is being stolen from Brazil. But we don’t know how much the Brazilian government knows, or whether it’s collaborating with Brazilian companies. But we’re going to know, I believe. One day we will know everything.
Or almost everything.
Glenn: what are your current thoughts about going to US?
LP: I wouldn’t go now.
Glenn: and later?
LP: I don’t know.
LP: What about you?
Glenn: I don’t know
LP: there is a strong chance we’ll be served with a subpoena if we go back
Glenn: For me, that’s the best-case scenario
Glenn: we’ll see
[THE GUARDIAN, LONDON]
MAN: All right, so which ones do we want here, then? This is operational stuff, so we mustn’t say any of this…
So redact that.
Go… go to top. What about the Alexander quote?
MAN 2: Yeah, that’s in TARMAC. “Why can’t we collect all the signals all the time? Sounds like a good summer homework project for Menwith.” Keith Alexander, the head of the NSA, on a visit to UK. This one.
Yeah. Secret document, isn’t it? Secret document. We’ve got a stick here that should just have three single slides on them. If it’s got more than three single slides, we have to be extremely careful.
Yeah, that’s it. This is really dangerous stuff for us, The Guardian, isn’t it? You make mistakes and at the very end where we kept it all under lock and key… And no one knows. I’m not saying that… They will come in and smack the front door down if we… if we elaborate on that. He said the Prime Minister’s extremely concerned about this. And they kept saying, “This is from the very top.”
(OVERLAPPING CHATTER CONTINUES, LOW AND INDISTINCT)
ES: How are things over there?
LP: I’m at the Guardian. They’re publishing TEMPORA today
LP: they are very nervous – worried about an injunction.
ES: The NSA love that program.
ES: Because they aren’t allowed to do it in the US. The UK lets us query it all day long
LP: They are getting cold feet about publishing names of the telecoms collaborating
ES: Do they know the companies?
LP: Yes, I believe so.
[Undersea cables intercept site for TEMPORA – GCHQ Bude, UK]
On June 21,2013, the US government charges Snowden with three felonies, two under the Espionage Act, and asks Hong Kong to extradite him.
Two days later, WikiLeaks organizes his departure from Hong Kong to seek political asylum.
MALE REPORTER: As you can see on this map, the flight that reportedly has Snowden aboard has almost reached its destination here in Moscow, scheduled to land in the Russian capital within minutes.
JULIAN ASSANGE, FOUNDER OF WIKILEAKS] As you may have heard, there is a CIA Agent who has revealed a lot of information, and he is now trapped in the, um, the airport in Moscow. We managed to get him out of Hong Kong, but when he landed in the Moscow airport, the American government had canceled his passport. So, formally, he hasn’t entered into Russian territory. He is in the transit area of the airport, and one of our people is accompanying him. We are trying to arrange a private jet to, um take him from Moscow to Ecuador or perhaps maybe Venezuela or maybe Iceland, countries where he will be safe.
[Brazilian Senate hearing on NSA spying]
MAN, IN PORTUGUESE: The floor is yours, for the time that you deem necessary.
GREENWALD: (IN PORTUGUESE) Thank you and hello. First of all, Americans’ justification for everything since the September 11 attacks is terrorism. Everything is in the name of national security, to protect our population. In reality, it’s the opposite. A lot of the documents have nothing to do with terrorism or national security, but with competition between countries, and with companies’ industrial, financial, or economic issues. Secondly, there’s XKeyscore. When we first started publishing articles, the US government’s defense was that it was not invading the content of communications, just taking the metadata. That means the names of the people talking, who is calling whom, call durations. But if I know all the people you are communicating with, and everyone they are communicating with, where you are when you are communicating, the call duration and the location, then I can learn a lot about your personality, your activity, and your life. This is a major invasion of privacy. In reality, that defense is totally false. The US government has the ability to get not only metadata, but the actual content of your emails or what you say on the phone, the words you type into Google searches, the websites you visit, the documents you send to colleagues. This system can track nearly everything that every individual is doing online. So if you’re a journalist investigating the American government, if you work for a company with American competitors, or if you work in human rights involving the American government, or any other field, they can very easily intercept your communication. If you’re an American living in the US, they have to seek permission from a court, but they always get it. But if you’re not American, they don’t need anything, no special permission at all. I think the consequences of eliminating privacy are difficult to predict, but we must understand that this will have an enormous impact. The population’s ability to have demonstrations or to organize is greatly reduced when people don’t have privacy.
MAN: May I collect all phones, please? Okay.
BEN WIZNER, SNOWDEN’S ACLU LAWYER: I have everything here, so…
MAN 3: Put them in the refrigerator.
[An international group of lawyers representing Snowden pro bono meets to discuss his legal status.]
WIZNER: So… So as you know, in June, Snowden was charged with three legal violations, felonies, principally under a World War I-era criminal law called the Espionage Act. The Espionage Act is an extremely broad criminal prohibition against the sharing or dissemination of what’s called national defense information. It was only used to, uh, prosecute people who had been accused of acting with a foreign power. Spies, not whistleblowers. And it’s a very unusual legal representation, I think, not just for all of you but for me as well. The Espionage Act does not distinguish between leaks to the press in the public interest and selling secrets to foreign enemies for personal profit. So under the Espionage Act, it’s not a defense if the information that was disclosed should not have been withheld in the first place, that it was improperly classified, it’s not a defense if the dissemination was in the public interest, that it led to reforms, um, even if a court determines that the programs that were revealed were illegal or unconstitutional, that’s still not a defense under the Espionage Act, the government doesn’t have to defend the classification, it doesn’t have to demonstrate harm from the release, um, all of this is irrelevant. So when we say that the trial wouldn’t be fair, we’re not talking about what human rights lawyers think of as fair trial practices. We’re saying the law, the statute itself… eliminates any kind of defense that Snowden might be able to make, and essentially would equate him with a spy. And of course those three counts could be increased to a hundred or two hundred or three hundred. They could charge him separately for each document that has been published by a journalist. And I think that… that we all recognize, even though we sit here as lawyers in a lawyer’s meeting, that it’s probably 95 percent politics and five percent law how this will be resolved. Mr. Snowden has been charged with very serious crimes, and he should be returned to the United States where he will be granted full due process and every right available to him as a United States citizen… facing our justice system under the Constitution.
OBAMA: No, I don’t think Mr. Snowden was a patriot. I called for a thorough review of our surveillance operations before Mr. Snowden made these leaks. My preference, and I think the American peoples’ preference, would have been for a lawful, orderly examination of these laws. A thoughtful, fact-based debate, uh, that would then lead us to a better place.
GREENWALD: Oh, my God. David. Hello, my baby, how you doing?
You okay? Let’s go.
MIRANDA: I just want to go home.
GREENWALD: Okay, okay, you just have to walk.
MIRANDA: How are you? Good, I’m totally fine, I didn’t sleep at all,
I couldn’t sleep.
I know. “Brazil Demands Explanation from UK Government”
WOMAN: Recent reports have revealed that the NSA have access to encryption keys and they paid tech companies to introduce back doors in encryption protocols. So we’re going to talk about ways in which we can defend ourselves against governments spying on us. So Mr. Jacob Applebaum is an encryption and security software developer and journalist. Ladar Levinson is the founder of the encrypted email service Lavabit, used by Edward Snowden. You have the floor.
LEVINSON: Thank you. Lavabit is an email service that hopefully one day will be able to stand on its own without any references to Snowden. My service was designed to remove me from the possibility of being forced to violate a person’s privacy. Quite simply, Lavabit was designed to remove the service provider from the equation. By not having logs on my server and not having access to a person’s emails on disk, I wasn’t eliminating the possibility of surveillance, I was simply removing myself from that equation. In that surveillance would have to be conducted on the target, either the sender or the receiver of the messages. But I was approached by the FBI quite recently and told that because I couldn’t turn over the information from that one particular user, I would be forced to give up those SSL keys and let the FBI collect every communication on my network without any kind of transparency. And of course… I wasn’t comfortable with that, to say the least. More disturbing was the fact that I couldn’t even tell anybody that it was going on. So I decided if I didn’t win the fight to unseal my case, if I didn’t win the battle to be able to tell people what was going on, then my only ethical choice left was to shut down. Think about that. I believe in the rule of law, I believe in the need to conduct investigations. But those investigations are supposed to be difficult for a reason. It’s supposed to be difficult to invade somebody’s privacy. Because of how intrusive it is. Because of how disruptive it is. If we can’t… if we don’t have our right to privacy, how do we have a free and open discussion? What good is the right to free speech… if it’s not protected… in the sense that you can’t have a private discussion with somebody else about something you disagree with. Think about the chilling effect that that has. Think about the chilling effect it does have on countries that don’t have a right to privacy.
APPELBAUM: I’ve noticed a really interesting discussion point. Which is that what people used to call liberty and freedom, we now call privacy. And we say, in the same breath, that privacy is dead. This is something that really concerns me about my generation. Especially when we talk about how we’re not surprised by anything. I think that we should consider that when we lose privacy, we lose agency, we lose liberty itself. Because we no longer feel free to express what we think. There’s this myth of the passive surveillance machine. But actually what is surveillance, except control? This notion that the NSA are passive, this is nonsense. What we see is that they actively attack European citizens, American citizens, and in fact, anyone that they can if they perceive an advantage. (IN GERMAN) And then there’s the key paragraph that says it was the SCS that intercepted Chancellor Merkel’s mobile phone. We have the number.
(CHATTER IN GERMAN CONTINUES)
(MAN, INDISTINCTLY) What will you tell the German people?
BINNEY: I’ll have to give that in testimony.
MAN 2: What are you going to tell?
BINNEY: Everything I can, truthfully.
MAN 3: What will you talk about? Whatever the questions they ask me.
WOMAN: Yeah, I think it’s over there.
BINNEY: Okay, all right. Thank you.
WOMAN: Hello, Mr. Binney. Hey, how are you? How are you? Good to see you again. Nice to meet you again, yes. It is my pleasure to be here. I feel that it’s important to testify about what’s really going on behind the scenes in the intelligence communities around the world. Not just in NSA. All those programs that Edward Snowden has exposed fundamentally are ways of acquiring information. Every dictatorship down through history has always done that. One of the first things they need to do is try to acquire knowledge of their population. And that’s exactly what these programs do. I see this as the most major threat to our democracies all around the world.
MAN: What do you think they’re doing to reporters, those of us that are working directly with the Snowden documents? How do you think they would approach dealing with people like us? You’re on the cast iron cover list. Which means any… any electronic device you use that they can attach to you they’ll record and capture all that data. And what do they do with that data? Trying to figure out what we’re doing? Uh, well, that’s part of it, but the other part for them I think is to find the sources of information you’re getting. So if I have a confidential source who’s giving me information as a whistleblower, and he works within the US government, and he’s concerned about what he perceives as violations of the Constitution, and he gets in touch with me, they… go ahead. From there on, they would nail him and start watching everything he did, and if he started passing data, I’m sure they’d take him off the street. I mean, the way you’d have to do it is like Deep Throat did, right? In the Nixon years. Meet in the basement of a parking garage, physically.
POITRAS: (READING) “Let’s disassociate our metadata one last time… so we don’t have a record of your true name in our final communication chain. This is obviously not to say you can’t claim your involvement, but as every trick in the book is likely to be used in looking into this, I believe it’s better that that particular disclosure come on your own terms. Thank you again for all you’ve done. So sorry again for the multiple delays, but we’ve been in uncharted territory with no model to benefit from. If all ends well, perhaps the demonstration that our methods worked will embolden more to come forward. Citizen.”
GREENWALD: So the update that I wanna give you is about the new, um… the new source that we…
SNOWDEN: Okay. That… This is what… This is the person who’s doing the most… Mm-hmm, right. …the work on it, um… And now, basically what’s happened is… And… That’s actually… that’s really dangerous. Um… on the source’s side. Do they know how to take care of themselves? I mean he… it’s all being done… through this.
SNOWDEN: Okay. And they’re all talking… this way.
SNOWDEN: Okay. I was gonna say, one of the big questions there is, can they handle it? No, they’re very careful.
Even… through that. Yeah.
GREENWALD: And… That’s where that is.
SNOWDEN: Wow, that’s really something. (CHUCKLING)
GREENWALD: Did you know that? It’s not the actual planes.
SNOWDEN: Right, right, you mean the control.
GREENWALD: It’s the process, who’s sending the… yeah. There’s a chart. There’s like a whole layout for every one… That is really bold; it’s really risky. You know, that’s the thing, if they understand what they’re doing…
GREENWALD: There’s this chart, it goes like this. It shows the decision-making chart. It’s shaped like this:
So up here it says…
Mm-hmm. That’s the decision-making chart for each… one.
SNOWDEN: It’s so political!
This is this part’s amazing.
That’s fucking ridiculous.
GREENWALD: This is… It’s so shocking.
SNOWDEN: That’s… that’s the population of entire countries.
GREENWALD: That’s what we’re working on.
SNOWDEN: That person is incredibly bold. But, um… But also very well aware. You know, I just hope… I mean… No, I mean, the boldness of it is shocking, but it was obviously motivated by what you did,
This is going to. This is going to That could raise the profile… of this whole political situation with whistleblowing to a whole new level.
GREENWALD: Yeah, I actually think that’s a great thing. And I think people are gonna see what’s being hidden again, again, by a totally different part of the government.
(♪ SLOW ELECTRONIC MUSIC)