NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has submitted written testimony [PDF] to an EU committee investigating mass surveillance. Glyn Moody’s Techdirt post gives a great tl;dr summary of the document, but you should really read it for yourself. It’s ten single-spaced pages, but Snowden turns out to be an extremely talented writer who beautifully lays out his arguments, managing the trick of being dispassionate while simultaneously conveying the import of his subject matter.
Snowden makes the point that his testimony doesn’t disclose anything that the press hasn’t already published, but there’s been so much that it’s worth reviewing some of it. He directs our attention to something I’d missed: the NSA’s Foreign Affairs Division (FAD) spends an extraordinary amount of time lobbying EU nations (and other countries) to change their laws so that the NSA can legally spy on everyone in the country. What’s more, they cook these deals — for example, they’ll get German permission to listen in on everything by non-Germans and get a Danish deal that covers all the non-Danes, but since the Internet backbones traverse both countries, they can spy on Germans in Denmark and Danes in Germany. As Snowden says, The surest way for any nation to become subject to unnecessary surveillance is to allow its spies to dictate its policy.“
Snowden also reveals that before he blew the whistle on the NSA, he „reported these clearly problematic programs to more than ten distinct officials, none of whom took any action to address them.“ He says that he’d love EU asylum, but doesn’t expect any country to have the backbone to stand up to the USA. And he is admirably unequivocal on his relationship with China and Russia: „I have no relationship with either government.“
He reaffirms that good crypto is proof against spies, and describes his relationship with Russia’s spooks:
Of course. Even the secret service of Andorra would have approached me, if they had had the chance: that’s their job.
But I didn’t take any documents with me from Hong Kong, and while I’m sure they were disappointed, it doesn’t take long for an intelligence service to realize when they’re out of luck. I was also accompanied at all times by an utterly fearless journalist [WikiLeaks’ Sarah Harrison] with one of the biggest megaphones in the world, which is the equivalent of Kryptonite for spies. As a consequence, we spent the next 40 days trapped in an airport instead of sleeping on piles of money while waiting for the next parade. But we walked out with heads held high.