Mr Snowden answers questions

This afternoon the Guardian ran a live question and answer session with Edward Snowden. It was unusual because Guardian readers were given the opportunity to put questions directly to Snowden. Amongst many startling things, Snowden explicitly said that the US security services are reading the content of e-mails and listening to phone calls without any proper judicial oversight…

Of course, the ramifications of this are absolutely horrific – blackmail, manipulation of stock markets, intellectual property theft, etc, etc – particularly when you consider that a large number of NSA kids like Snowden are able to intercept such information (and apparently can quite easily walk off with it).

The response by the mainstream media has largely been a wall of defeaning silence. The latest revelations on Sunday, about widespread spying at a recent G20 summit have barely been covered at all, and this as the latest G20 summit is about to take place. Granted, it’s hardly big news that governments spy on other governments (even friendly ones), yet Snowden’s revelations are the sort of titilating story that you’d think the media would be all over; but not a peep out of them (shortly after the initial revelations, the Ministry of Defence did issue a D Notice – here – but it’s not a legally binding attempt to gag the British media).

In today’s Q & A, Snowden talked quite a bit about the media. Responding to a question asking whether he’s suggesting that “Manning indiscriminately dumped secrets into the hands of Wikileaks and that he intended to harm people”, Snowden replied:

No, I’m not. Wikileaks is a legitimate journalistic outlet and they carefully redacted all of their releases in accordance with a judgment of public interest. The unredacted release of cables was due to the failure of a partner journalist to control a passphrase. However, I understand that many media outlets used the argument that “documents were dumped” to smear Manning, and want to make it clear that it is not a valid assertion here.

Asked what he thought about the public debate sparked by his disclosures, Snowden replied:

Initially I was very encouraged. Unfortunately, the mainstream media now seems far more interested in what I said when I was 17 or what my girlfriend looks like rather than, say, the largest program of suspicionless surveillance in human history.

The Edward Snowden story is not only about what our governments have become, it’s also about what our media has become. Thus, I am once again, when covering a big story, forced to use a tv news report from Russia Today…

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