Edward Snowden Makes Surprise Appearance at TED

With his recently accepted bid for amnesty in Russia finally settling in, Edward Snowden has spent the past two weeks speaking to packed conference rooms filled with people eager to hear his opinions on the leaks of the past nine months, and all carrying one kind of smartphone or another. This week he made a surprised, unadvertised appearance a TED talk in Vancouver.

How intriguing it must have been for an agency that is dedicated to collecting information on people who are either enemies of the state, or someone who was in the same room where the number one enemy of the state was speaking to a slam packed auditorium via Skype over an iPad.

Through a video feed, Snowden came to the crowd live from an undisclosed location somewhere in Russia, with several prepared statements that weren’t too radically different from the same message we’d heard not but a week prior at SXSW. After those were out of the way, he segued into a Q&A session with the audience, speaking on a range of topics as innocent as life in Russia, to as serious as what the future of the agency might have looked like if he hadn’t done what he did, and what it could still look like in a post-leak world.

He spoke of the PRISM program as a “deputization of corporate America”, and that the US has been working behind the scenes for years to be sure that not one stone was left unturned in the new Wild West of the internet and all it had to offer.

He also emphasized the economic danger those same conglomerates now faced due to programs like BULLRUN and BLUEHILL, which intentionally weakened the communications between companies and on their internal networks, likely leading to billions of dollars lost in intellectual property rights.

In closing, he spoke of his personal experience as a contractor with one of the largest government organizations to ever exist, the powers they’ve abused, and what we can do to resist their efforts from here on out.

“Dick Cheney is really something else,” Snowden said with a grin. “The prerogatives of people like Dick Cheney do not keep the nation safe. The public interest is not always the same as the national interest. Going to war with people who are not our enemy in places that are not a threat, doesn’t make us safe, and that applies in Iraq and on the internet.”