On Monday, the triple team of Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald, and Edward Snowden himself took to the news aggregation website Reddit to participate in an AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) on the tails of their Oscar win from Sunday night for the documentary Citizenfour.
The community wasted no time in hitting Snowden with the hard questions, inquiring about everything from the specifics of programs he had worked on, to what he thought of being called a traitor by Neil Patrick Harris on live TV.
Though there were a few softballs peppered throughout the impromptu interview, many of the highest-rated questions asked the team to get down and dirty with details about what they thought were the most important documents they came across during the investigation.
“For me personally, the most shocking revelation was the overall one that the explicit goal of the NSA and its allies is captured by the slogan “collect it all” – meaning they want to convert the internet into a place of limitless, mass surveillance, which is another way of saying they literally want to eliminate privacy in the digital age”, said Greenwald.
When grilled whether there was anything he regretted about coming forward, Snowden expressed disappointment that he’d waited as long as he did to pull the trigger:
“Snowden: Had I come forward sooner, these programs would have been a little less entrenched, and those abusing them would have felt a little less familiar with and accustomed to the exercise of those powers.”
The top question in the forum cut right to the issue that most of us have had on our mind since the NSA leaks started: what do you think of the public’s reaction to the revelations, and why hasn’t there been more uproar in the streets?
Snowden acknowledged that the response may not have been as feverish as he expected, but said he was glad to see that his actions, Glenn’s writing, and Laura’s documentary Citizenfour had done as much as they had to open our eyes to the inner workings of a government agency gone awry.
“Snowden: Poll after poll is confirming that, contrary to what we tend to think, people not only care, they care a lot. The problem is we feel disempowered. We feel like we can’t do anything about it, so we may as well not try.
There are now court cases possible challenging the legality of this surveillance – one federal court in the US and a British court just recently found this spying illegal. Social media companies like Facebook and Apple are being forced by their users to install encryption and other technological means to prevent surveillance, which is a significant barrier.
It’s going to be a long process, but that’s starting to change.”
One can only hope he’s right. If you want to read the full AMA for yourself you can check it out here, and just in case you weren’t able to get a chance to see Citizenfour while it was still in theaters, the documentary will premiere on HBO tonight at 9PM and and on Channel 4 in the UK on Wednesday.