May 29, 2014

A Look at Edward Snowden’s Interview with NBC

By Jason Enzler

Last night, NBC’s interview with Edward Snowden aired. From a factual standpoint, there was not much disclosed that had not already come out in previous news stories. Snowden has already answered questions like “why didn’t he blow the whistle internally before going to the press?” (he did), or “why did he flee to Russia with super-sensitive documents?” (he did not).

But as NBC’s Brian Williams noted during his introductory remarks, this is the first time Snowden has given a sit-down, slog-it-out interview for U.S. television. While we know much of the facts (or at least the contested facts) of what he did, the public has had very little insight into the person– the thoughts, feelings, and motivations of the person at the center of all this. In this respect, the interview, aptly entitled “Inside the Mind of Edward Snowden,” was very revealing.

We see in the interview the struggles of an American confronting a difficult situation and engaging and struggling with it head-on. He takes us through his evolving thought process as he came to the conclusion that he must break one set of rules (national security rules) in order to protect what he believes is another, more important set of rules (the Constitution). In short, we see in Snowden what most whistleblowers struggle with. Tough questions about right and wrong, or what is more often the case, balancing questions about the lesser of two evils. Not to mention decisions about how far to go, professionally and personally, in order to rectify a wrong; as Snowden put it, “setting your life on fire.”

We did learn one new “fact.” Snowden’s documents have led the press to report on several government surveillance programs over the past year. These range from monitoring phone lines of foreign leaders to collecting millions upon millions of phone and email records of U.S. citizens to tracking mobile phone locations (i.e., your location) to programs allowing for the collection of “almost anything done on the internet.” According to Williams, Glen Greenwald, one of the journalists who first reported on the Snowden documents to the public, said there is a new disclosure coming, and it “may be the biggest yet.”

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