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Edward Snowden Tells SXSW He'd Leak Those Secrets Again

Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who has leaked large amounts of classified information about the agency's electronic surveillance programs, spoke via video to a sympathetic audience at South By Southwest Interactive on Monday.

Snowden, who is wanted for prosecution in the U.S., was in Russia, where he's been given temporary asylum. Repeating things he's said before, Snowden declared Monday that he would do what he did all over again because he had seen the Constitution being "violated on a massive scale."

The Obama administration disagrees, though Snowden's revelations did begin a process that earlier this year led the president to say he wants the NSA to stop holding on to massive amounts of "metadata" about the phone calls and electronic communications of millions of people around the world.

We posted some highlights from Snowden's comments. As you'll see, he faced no tough questions.

Earlier today, All Tech Considered previewed his SXSW appearance.

Update at 1:02 p.m. ET. Would He Do It Again? "Absolutely Yes":

The last question to Snowden is about whether he would do what he's done again. "Absolutely yes," he says, adding that he "took an oath to support and defend the Constitution and I saw the Constitution ... being violated on a massive scale."

The surveillance programs, he adds, take the Constitution's prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures and turn it into "any seizure is fine, just don't search it."

Update at 12:59 p.m. ET. The Problem With Contractors:

Snowden has worked both inside the government and for contractors outside it. The problem with contractors, he says, is that "they aren't accountable."

Update at 12:50 p.m. ET. A Tor Endorsement:

A Twitter query about what the average person can do to protect their online communications prompts Snowden to talk about Tor, the "mixed routing network" that can make it much harder to track online activity.

Update at 12:45 p.m. ET. Another Question For Snowden From The Web. Who Are You To Decide?

"On what basis do you get to be the person to unilaterally decide what material remains classified & what gets released?" (Tweeted here.)

We'll watch to see if that's asked.

Update at 12:40 p.m. ET. Question From The Web. What About Crimea?

Questions for Snowden can be posted with the Twitter hashtag #asksnowden. Tom Risen, a tech and business reporter for U.S. News, poses this topical query:

"What are you doing in Russia now that the Crimea situation is escalating?"

We'll watch to see if that's asked.

Update at 12:30 p.m. ET. Does Mass Surveillance Distract The Security Agencies?

Snowden argues that "we've actually had tremendous intelligence failures because we're monitoring the Internet ... everybody's communications, instead of the suspects' communications." His example: Tips about the brothers' accused in the Boston Marathon bombings may not have been thoroughly pursued because the surveillance programs were given priority.

Update at 12:25 p.m. ET. Says He's Not Weakening Nation's Security, NSA Is:

It's pointed out to Snowden that the NSA believes his revelations have harmed national security. His response? The NSA has "elevated offensive operations — that is, attacking — over the defense of our communications." And that, in Snowden's view, has made the nation less secure.

He makes the case that without a well-defended communications system, "our economy can't succeed."

Update at 12:15 p.m. ET. The Constitution As A Backdrop:

The background behind Snowden (presumably thanks to a "green screen" projection), is an image of the U.S. Constitution.

Note: NPR is not a SXSW sponsor, but our friends on the Music Desk are webcasting music from there and some NPR staff are appearing on some SXSW panels.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.