In ‘Permanent Record,’ Edward Snowden Says ‘Exile Is An Endless Layover’

Snowden, who had worked at the CIA as well as the National Security Agency, said he immediately turned down the offer to cooperate with Russian intelligence. But his stay in Russia has been far longer than expected.

“I participated in the most significant change in the history of American espionage — the change from the targeted surveillance of individuals to the mass surveillance of entire populations,” Snowden writes of his time at the NSA. “I helped make it technologically feasible for a single government to collect all the world’s digital communications, store them for ages, and search through them at will.”

For Snowden, this mass collection of the data on U.S. citizens was a gross violation of privacy. He surreptitiously copied evidence of the programs, fled to Hong Kong in May 2013 and shared it with several journalists.

“I was resolved to bring to light a single, all-encompassing fact: that my government had developed and deployed a global system of mass surveillance without the knowledge or consent of its citizenry,” Snowden writes.

“It was not my choice to live in Russia,” Snowden told NPR in an interview Thursday. “I’ve actually been quite public about my criticism of the Russian government’s human rights record. I’ve been especially critical of their surveillance policies, and I also have criticized the Russian President [Vladimir Putin] quite routinely.

So what’s changed since Snowden’s revelations?

The law, for one. In 2015, Congress passed the U.S.A. Freedom Act, which prohibits the bulk collection of the phone records of American citizens, addressing one of Snowden’s major complaints. Now the government must get a court warrant to look at individual phone records.


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