At an event at Stanford University on Friday on May 15th Snowden, via teleconference from Moscow, shared his thoughts about the ethics of modern whistle-blowing and gave his audience a glimpse of what his life is like in Russia now.
“I have to work a lot harder to do the same thing. The difference is that, even though I’ve lost a lot, I have a tremendous sense of satisfaction.” Edward Snowden.
Even though he is in exile in Russia, he is actually still working hard, although he isn’t reluctant to reveal what exactly he is working on. Snowden believes in being judged on the results. “The fact is I was getting paid an extraordinary amount of money for very little work with very little in the way of qualifications. That’s changed significantly.”
One victory for Snowden is the fact that the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled that the NSA’s massive collection of Americans’ phone records is illegal, and have done it unanimously. The ruling of the federal court comes as Congress confronts a June 1 deadline to renew a section of the Patriot Act that makes the NSA’s bulk data surveillance possible.
Snowden described this decision “extraordinarily encouraging”.
Snowden revealed the existence of the surveillance program in the documents he leaked to the press and to the general public. Some of the other NSA documents that Snowden gave to the press, relating to US hacking of China, have split the public opinion that he crossed the line from patriotic whistleblowing to high treason. Snowden sees himself neither as a hero or a traitor, but just as a person who reached the tipping point where he felt the need to actually do something.
Snowden noted that he did not publish a single document himself, he worked with reporters so that there could be a system of checks and balances. He made a sacrifice and did leak the info anonymously, because he knew the NSA would then conduct a purge searching for him, and in doing so the livelihoods of his fellow colleagues would be at risk.
He explained that “whistleblowers are elected by circumstance. Nobody self nominates to be a whistleblower because it’s so painful, our lives are destroyed whether you are right or wrong. This is not something people sign up for.” Snowden sees himself neither as a hero or a traitor, but just as a person who reached the tipping point where he felt the need to actually do something.
Snowden via teleconference addressed the ethics of whistleblowing saying:“We all have a limit of injustice, of incivility, of inhumanity in our daily life that we can kind of accept and ignore. We turn our eyes away from the beggar on the street. We also have a breaking point and when people find that, they act-you have to have a greater commitment to justice than a fear of the law.”