The following interview via encrypted email, published by Der Spiegel, in which Jacob Appelbaum, a developer of encryption and security software, communicated with Edward Snowden, took place before Snowden’s identity became public.
Interviewer: What is the mission of America’s National Security Agency (NSA) — and how is the job it does compatible with the rule of law?
Snowden: They’re tasked to know everything of importance that happens outside of the United States. That’s a significant challenge. When it is made to appear as though not knowing everything about everyone is an existential crisis, then you feel that bending the rules is okay. Once people hate you for bending those rules, breaking them becomes a matter of survival.
Interviewer: Are German authorities or German politicians involved in the NSA surveillance system?
Snowden: Yes, of course. We’re in bed together with the Germans the same as with most other Western countries. For example, we tip them off when someone we want is flying through their airports (that we for example, have learned from the cell phone of a suspected hacker’s girlfriend in a totally unrelated third country — and they hand them over to us. They don’t ask to justify how we know something, and vice versa, to insulate their political leaders from the backlash of knowing how grievously they’re violating global privacy.
Interviewer: But if details about this system are now exposed, who will be charged?
Snowden: In front of US courts? I’m not sure if you’re serious. An investigation found the specific people who authorized the warrantless wiretapping of millions and millions of communications, which per count would have resulted in the longest sentences in world history, and our highest official simply demanded the investigation be halted. Who “can” be brought up on charges is immaterial when the rule of law is not respected. Laws are meant for you, not for them.
Interviewer: Does the NSA partner with other nations, like Israel?
Snowden: Yes. All the time. The NSA has a massive body responsible for this: FAD, the Foreign Affairs Directorate. [Continue reading…]