Glenn Greenwald on Edward Snowden and the 'Inept and Menacing' NSA

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NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden speaks via videoconference during the 2014 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival at the Austin Convention Center on March 10, 2014 in Austin, Texas.

In May 2013, Glenn Greenwald went to Hong Kong to meet an anonymous source who claimed to have evidence of pervasive government spying and insisted on communicating only through heavily encrypted channels. That source turned out to be the NSA contractor Edward Snowden, and his revelations about the agency’s widespread, systemic overreach triggered a fierce debate over national security and information privacy. 

Interview Highlights

On his collaboration with Snowden in determining which documents would be published: "The idea was not to destroy the NSA or the programs. It was to inform the world."

On why he and fellow journalist Laura Poitras crafted a careful rollout of the news stories: “I think that one of the responsibilities a journalist has is to try and make certain that the story gets out in a way that has the biggest impact. And I also think that you owe it to your source not to let them be demonized and to let them speak in their own voice.”

On the NSA: "To this day, they have no idea what [Snowden] took. That shows how poorly managed the system is."

On whether the NSA is spying for economic reasons: “So much of the spying that is done is economic in nature, despite public claims to the contrary.”

"The problem here isn’t so much the NSA breaks the law. The problem is is that the law has allowed the NSA to do such extraordinarily vast things that there almost are no legal limits.” 

Glenn Greenwald's book is No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State.