Snowden: NSA 'Set Fire' to Internet, Techies are 'Firefighters'
Edward Snowden accused the NSA and
its global counterparts of "setting fire to the future of the Internet"
during his videoconference discussion at South by Southwest in Texas on
Monday, and he called on the tech community members in the audience to
be "the firefighters."
spoke remotely from Russia, where he received asylum when he fled the
United States in 2013 after leaking classified government surveillance
documents to journalists including Glenn Greenwald. His 11 a.m. CT
appearance at SXSW, a technology and music festival in Austin, Tex., are
his most public comments since the leaks.
He explained that he
chose popular tech confab SXSW as the platform for his talk because "the
tech community ... they're the folks who can really fix things, who can
enforce our rights."
characterized the NSA's surveillance program, as well as similar
programs from governments around the globe, as "setting fire to the
future of the Internet."
"You guys are all the firefighters," Snowden said, addressing the SXSW audience. "We need you to help us fix this."
on the panel was Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist for the
American Civil Liberties Union, who agreed with Snowden on his call to
"We need to lock things
down," Soghoian said. "We need to make services secure out of the box.
It's going to require a rethink from developers."
The Texas Tribune is livestreaming the Snowden event.
Snowden's appearance infuriated at least one lawmaker: In a letter published publicly on Friday, Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., called on SXSW's organizers to take Snowden off the bill.
"When I served in the
Army along the Iron Curtain we had a word for a person who absconds with
information and provides it to another nation: traitor," Pompeo wrote.
He also called Snowden a "common criminal."
ACLU's Ben Wizner, who moderated the discussion with Snowden, read part
of Pompeo's letter aloud before Snowden appeared on screen.
SXSW festival also featured a video talk with Snowden supporter Julian
Assange on Saturday, in which the Wikileaks founder reportedly called
the NSA "a rogue agency."