Snowden: Orwell's '1984' 'nothing' compared to NSA spying

Dec. 25, 2013 at 12:30 AM   |   0 comments

LONDON, Dec. 25 (UPI) -- George Orwell's fictional Big Brother monitoring everyone's lives is "nothing" compared to surveillance today, U.S. secrets leaker Edward Snowden says on TV.

"Great Britain's George Orwell warned us of the danger of this kind of information," Snowden says, referring to Orwell's dystopian novel "Nineteen Eighty-Four," about a superstate in a world of perpetual war and omnipresent government surveillance that persecutes individualism and independent thinking as "thoughtcrimes."

"The types of collection in the book -- microphones and video cameras, TVs that watch us -- are nothing compared to what we have available today," Snowden says in broadcast excerpts released in advance of a recorded Christmas message to air on Britain's Channel 4 at 4:15 p.m. (11:15 a.m. EDT).

"We have sensors in our pockets that track us everywhere we go," he says, apparently referring to cellphones. "Think about what this means for the privacy of the average person.

"A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all," he says in his first TV appearance since arriving in Moscow, where he is living after being granted temporary asylum Aug. 1.

"They'll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves -- an unrecorded, unanalyzed thought. And that's a problem because privacy matters. Privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be," he says in the video, recorded by U.S. filmmaker Laura Poitras, who collaborated with Snowden on the disclosures of mass surveillance of U.S. citizens and foreign nationals by the National Security Agency and its international partners.

Snowden in the video points to political changes that have taken place since he started leaking NSA operational details to newspapers in June.

Those changes, he says, include an outside review panel that urged President Barack Obama last week to end the NSA's bulk collection of phone records and instead require the agency to do focused searches -- with court approval -- of data held elsewhere.

They also include last week's U.S. District Court ruling that said an NSA program that collects records of all Americans' phone calls is probably unconstitutional.

"The conversation occurring today will determine the amount of trust we can place both in the technology that surrounds us and the government that regulates it," he says.

"Together we can find a better balance, end mass surveillance and remind the government that if it really wants to know how we feel, asking is always cheaper than spying," Snowden says.

His broadcast comes a day after the Washington Post published an interview with Snowden in which he says his leak "mission's accomplished. I already won."

"As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated," Snowden told the Post. "Because, remember, I didn't want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself."

"All I wanted was for the public to be able to have a say in how they are governed," he said.

Dorothy Byrne, Channel 4's head of news and current affairs, said in a statement: "Edward Snowden's decision to reveal the extent of surveillance programs was one of the most significant news events of the year. The information which he has placed in the public domain raises serious questions for democratic society. This is an opportunity for our viewers to hear from him directly and judge for themselves what he has to say."

Snowden's broadcast will be Channel 4's 21st annual "alternative Christmas message," a counterpoint to Queen Elizabeth II's annual televised message to the people of Britain.

Previous alternative message speakers include the Rev. Jesse Jackson, French former actress and animal-rights activist Brigitte Bardot, Marge and Lisa Simpson from the animated TV sitcom "The Simpsons" and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad while he was Iran's president.

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