NSA leaker Edward Snowden seemed equally paranoid and steadfast Monday when he answered questions from the public for the first time since he revealed government secrets about a classified surveillance program in early June.
whose live Q&A was hosted by The Guardian, responded to questions
ranging from his choice of destination to his label as a traitor from
Twitter users as well as commenters on the British paper’s website.
responded to criticism from former Vice President Dick
Cheney, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Congressman Peter King
(R-N.Y.), saying being labeled as a traitor by people like Cheney was
the highest honor you could give to an American.
why he fled to Hong Kong, instead of his destination-of-choice
Iceland, Snowden wrote that it is often difficult for NSA employees to
leave the country, usually having to give 30-days notice before a trip.
Snowden said he needed to pick a country “with the cultural and legal
framework to allow me to work without being immediately detained.”
also answered questions about his current relationship with China,
calling the implication that he is a Chinese spy a “knee-jerk” reaction
and saying if he were, he’d “be living in a palace petting a phoenix by
One Guardian reporter asked Snowden to clarify his answer, saying commenters weren’t satisfied with his vague response.
“No. I have had no contact with the Chinese government,” Snowden responded.
Snowden said he was initially excited about the media’s coverage of his
story, he became annoyed by the press’ choice to cover “what I said
when I was 17 or what my girlfriend looks like.”
the Q&A, Snowden wrote passionately, condemning the U.S.
government, the NSA and the gang of eight, a group of senators
spearheading the current immigration bill, who Snowden claimed to be the
biggest supporters of lies; he said their actions compelled him in part to release the
He also cited President Barack Obama's failure to close the detention camp in
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as one the factors leading up to his decision to
release the information.
The answer came as a questioner asked Snowden why he waited to
release the documents when he's said he wanted to inform the world about
the NSA programs before Obama was elected president.
Snowden wrote that Obama's "campaign promises and election gave me
faith that he would lead us toward fixing the problems he outlined in
his quest for votes.
Many Americans felt similarly. Unfortunately, shortly after assuming
power, he closed the door on investigating systemic violations of law,
deepened and expanded several abusive programs, and refused to spend the
political capital to end the kind of human rights violations like we
see in Guantanamo, where men still sit without charge."
answered numerous questions, but left even more unanswered. The
Guardian’s comment section was filled with more than 3,000 comments, while Twitter was flooded with questions.
Even questions that Snowden responded to sometimes received only partial answers.
He was asked:
would you say to others who are in a position to leak classified
information that could improve public understanding of the intelligence
apparatus of the USA and its effect on civil liberties? What
evidence do you have that refutes the assertion that the NSA is unable
to listen to the content of telephone calls without an explicit and
defined court order from FISC?”
Snowden simply responded, “This country is worth dying for.”
conversation ended with Snowden thanking the audience for its support,
reminding readers that “just because you are not the target of a
surveillance program does not make it okay.”
--By Kevin Thibodeaux; Lesley Clark contributed.