NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden made a surprise appearance at this week’s TED technology conference, accusing the US intelligence service of ‘setting fire to the internet’ and prioritising surveillance over security.
Watch the video interview below:
The former NSA contractor singled out Keith Alexander and Michael Hayden during a Q and A session via live video link from Moscow, where he is currently exiled after the US revoked his passport.
Snowden accused US agencies of prioritising offensive cyber operations over defence and exploiting security vulnerabilities in IT products in some cases urging companies to install their own.
The NSA, he said, is “setting fire to the future of the internet”.
The obsession with collecting as much data as possible over more traditional targeted techniques has had disastrous consequences, he argued.
“We’ve had intelligence failures because we are monitoring everyone’s communications, not just suspects”.
He said the failure of US law enforcement to anticipate the Boston Marathon bombing last April was a case in point.
More PRISM secrets to be revealed?
The Technology Entertainment and Design (TED) conference brings together speakers from around the world to share their ideas on how to improve and better understand the world.
Snowden appeared on huge screens before an audience of hundreds at the South By Southwest arts festival in Austin, Texas. Organisers said his connection was secured through seven proxy servers.
Mediators read out a message of thanks to Snowden from Tim Berners-Lee, the British inventor of the worldwide web, saying he had acted “overwhelmingly in the public interest”.
Snowden worked as a contractor for the NSA where he helped himself to numerous files, exposing hugely controversial surveillance programmes that are being operated by the US spy agency and its British counterpart GCHQ.
He is widely misreported to have taken an oath of secrecy, but did promise to uphold the US constitution. An enlarged image of the Preamble to the Constitution, beginning “We the People” appeared behind his face as a backdrop.
Snowden also hinted during his address that there were more documents to be revealed about Prism, saying “some of the most important reporting to be done is yet to come”.