On Wednesday, March 4, former NSA contractor (and now internationally known whistleblower) Edward Snowden participated in a live Q&A hosted by Canadian Journalists for Free Expression at Ryerson University.

[[{“fid”:”3879″,”view_mode”:”default”,”fields”:{“format”:”default”,”field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]”:””,”field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]”:””},”type”:”media”,”link_text”:null,”attributes”:{“height”:”723″,”width”:”1435″,”style”:”width: 300px; height: 151px; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px; float: right;”,”class”:”media-element file-default”}}]]On Wednesday, March 4, former NSA contractor (and now internationally known whistleblower) Edward Snowden participated in a live Q&A hosted by Canadian Journalists for Free Expression at Ryerson University. Over the 35-minute interview and following hour-long panel discussion, Snowden and CBC radio host Anna Maria Tremonti discussed freedom of information issues at home and abroad, the role of whistleblowers and journalists in leaking sensitive information, and his hopes for the future of surveillance policy and law.

A live blog of the whole interview and panel can be found here. Here’s some of the top moments from the interview.

Of the newly launched Snowden Archive, Snowden says he hopes it will be of use to more than just journalists and researchers. 

As great and valuable as news analysis is, having journalists write their takes for the newspaper, to make them accessible to the average person, for people working in academia, in technology, for people in legal and policy circles, sometimes the quick take from media and analytical articles aren’t enough. You need to be able to go to the source documentation to see not only why journalists came away with the impression that they did, but the real facts underlying.

Snowden doesn’t see his role, as a whistleblower, as deciding when leaked information will be made public, or how. That’s a responsibility he leaves to journalists.

This is the reason why I asked all of the journalists invovled in the reporting not only to make their own public interest judgments. I didn’t think I should make these judgments, because I have a bias as someone who feels quite strongly that these programs went too far, that I might draw a little too radically compared to public institutions. So I asked them to make their journalistic detrminaations of public interest, but at the same time to go to the governments once they had their draft material, and say, “These are the claims we’re making. This is what we’re going to print, these are the people we’re going to name. Is there something we could have missed here?” 


He’s keen to go back to the U.S., but the conditons to make that happen—a fair trial—just aren’t possible.

There is no fair trial available, or on offer right now. I’ve been working exhaustively with the government now since I left to try to define terms of a trial which would allow the public to look at these issues. It would be open, it would be clear, it wouldn’t have any abuse of procedure, where we would say, “Oh, we’ve got all this great evidence against him, but it’s classified, so of course you can’t know it.” Or, “No, he can’t communicate with the media, no he can’t communicate with his lawyers, and we have to record every communication he has because he’s this dangerous criminal.”

Mass surveilance simply isn’t an efficient way of tracking and preventing terrorist activity.

It’s not that they’re efficient, but they’re not effective at all in stopping terrorist attacks…this is because of the way mass surveillance works. When you think about bulk collection, as they call it, and you collect everything on everybody, you don’t really understand anything about it. 

Where the intelligence community makes an argument that is at least understandable…is that after the fact, sort of “right of boom,” the fact that they’ve collected every citizen within their country, all of their communications, no matter who the suspect was, even if they weren’t under surveillance, they’ve got a time surveillance machine ready to go.

Canada’s controversial Bill C-51 is in some ways a trickle-down effect of previous U.S. politics.

Bill C-51 is sort of an emulation of the American Patriot Act. By my reading—I’m not an expert. They’re trying to say, “Look, we face an extraordinary national security risk that poses an existential threat to Canada. And we know that’s not true because in fact terrorism kills fewer people than lightning strikes…terrorism is an extraordinarily rare natural disaster. It’s a human disaster with legs. But no matter what we do, no matter what laws we pass, we cannot throw away all of our rights, all our freedoms, all of our liberties, because we’re afraid of rare cases of criminal activityWhat we need responsible members of government to advocate is resilience in our policies, in our politics, in our societies.

Full video of the online chat can be found online here.