Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden said he repeatedly tried to go through official channels to raise concerns about government snooping programs, but was repeatedly ignored.
This forms the most clear riposte yet to US President Barack Obama’s remarks last year that there were "other avenues" available to those who, like Snowden, "thought that they needed to question government actions."
In testimony to the European Parliament released Friday morning, Snowden wrote that he reported issues related to spying programmes to more than 10 officials during his time working as a contractor.
“Yes. I had reported these clearly problematic programs to more than ten distinct officials, none of whom took any action to address them.”
There were two sorts of reactions to his concerns, he told the EU.
"The first were well-meaning but hushed warnings not to 'rock the boat,' for fear of the sort of retaliation that befell former NSA whistleblowers like Wiebe, Binney, and Drake."
All three of these former NSA employees were subject to lengthy persecution and threats.
"Everyone in the Intelligence Community is aware of what happens to people who report concerns about unlawful but authorized operations," he wrote.
The other kind was to simply throw up their hands. Nobody within the NSA could recall when an official complaint resulted in the shutdown of an unlawful program, Snowden testified, "but there was a unanimous desire to avoid being associated with such a complaint in any form."
Elsewhere in his testimony, Snowden excoriated the NSA’s record of protecting the public.
“I believe that suspicionless surveillance not only fails to make us safe, but it actually makes us less safe,” he said. “By squandering precious, limited resources on ‘collecting it all,’ we end up with more analysts trying to make sense of harmless political dissent and fewer investigators running down real leads.”
If you want to watch Edward Snowden’s keynote to attendees at SXSW later today, you can find out how to here. Snowden – along with his legal advisor, Ben Wizner – is going to be interviewed by Christopher Soghoian, the ACLU’s principal technologist.