VANCOUVER, Canada — Edward Snowden on Tuesday said the biggest revelations have yet to come out of the estimated 1.7 million documents he acquired from the National Security Agency.
In a surprise appearance via satellite robot at the 2014 TED conference in Vancouver, Snowden said there is still a lot of reporting to be done, including diving deeper into the accusation that the NSA tricks companies into building backdoors into their systems that make data vulnerable to hackers across the world.
“Is it really terrorism that we’re stopping? I say no,” Snowden said. “The bottom line is that terrorism […] has always been a cover for actions. Terrorism evokes an emotional response.”
Snowden, who is still in hiding somewhere in Russia, maintained that his act wasn’t reckless and that he did it all for the American people. He also said he would love to return to the United States — if granted immunity.
“I don’t want to harm my government” he said. “The fact that they’re willing to ignore due process and declare guilt without a trial […] these are things we need to work against as a society.”
Snowden remains a controversial figure throughout the world, but he was speaking to the right crowd at TED. When Anderson asked the audience who disagreed with Snowden’s actions, only a few hands shot into the air. When he asked if the room felt Snowden was right in handing over the NSA’s secret, the audience erupted with applause. Tim Berners-Lee, a man widely credited with inventing the World Wide Web, then stepped on stage to talk with Snowden.
He called him a “hero.”
After Snowden exposed NSA programs like PRISM, many Americans wanted to know why they should care about this surveillance if they’re not guilty of doing anything wrong. Snowden said it comes down to protecting rights.
“Rights matter because you never know when you’re going to need them,” Snowden said, adding that people should be able to pick up the phone and call their family, send a text to their loved ones and travel by train without worrying about how these events will look to a government years in the future.
The former NSA contractor has been on a public relations tour over the past few weeks, embracing the public debate that has erupted over his actions. He recently made an appearance at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas via satellite, in which he touched on similar talking points that he did on Tuesday.
“I am living proof that an individual can go head to head with the most powerful intelligence agencies around the world — and win,” Snowden said.