Edward Snowden: Supreme Court Will Strike Down NSA Spying Programs

Rena Schild / Shutterstock.com

 Fugitive leaker Edward Snowden said Saturday he believes the Supreme Court will review the legality of the U.S. government's mass surveillance programs and ultimately find them unconstitutional.

"These programs themselves are unconstitutional," Snowden said during an interview with journalist Jane Mayer at the New Yorker festival in New York City. "I am confident that the Supreme Court will agree these programs went too far."

Snowden cited a ruling by a federal judge last year that found the National Security Agency's bulk collection of American phone records likely unconstitutional as one reason for his confidence. He also noted that two presidential advisory panels have raised concerns about the lack of judicial oversight of the agency's programs.

Snowden, appearing via a video stream, was responding to a question from Mayer, who asserted that the dragnet programs Snowden exposed last summer were legal. Most whistle-blowers, Mayer said, have come forward to shed light on illegal activity, making Snowden's situation different.

Snowden disagreed, saying he "would dispute that no crimes have been shown." He pointed to government officials who appear to have lied to Congress under oath, and said the programs have been routinely abused by employees.

"We have had serial abuse from NSA agents spying on exes, lovers … never prosecuted. That's a felony," he said.

Snowden also addressed recent moves by both Apple and Google to ensure tighter encryption protections on their phones, saying the measures only go so far. Spies and law enforcement officials can still obtain records from phone companies, and encryption does not protect data uploaded to cloud services, such as iCloud, he said.

"Even if encryption were this unbreakable, impenetrable shield, we live in the cloud era," Snowden said. "That data [in the cloud] is not encrypted."

He blasted concerns raised by some officials, including Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director James Comey, that such safeguards could impede criminal or national security investigations. That complaint is "not only ridiculous, it's offensive," Snowden said.

Snowden's interview came a day after the screening premiere of a new documentary that provides an intimate look at Snowden's rendezvous with journalist Glenn Greenwald and filmmaker Laura Poitras in the days leading up to the publication of documents revealing details of the NSA's sweeping phone and Internet surveillance programs. The film, Citizenfour, is directed by Poitras and reveals that Snowden's girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, is now living with him in Moscow, where Snowden remains in exile.

"She was not entirely pleased," Snowden joked to Mayer when asked to describe the reunion after more than a year apart. "Although she had a very, very challenging year, and I'll leave that to her to discuss, it was a meeting I'll never forget," he added, while apparently wiping a tear from his eye.

(Image via Rena Schild / Shutterstock.com )

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.