Tags: Edward Snowden | NSA/Surveillance | Edward Snowden | interview | John Oliver | NSA

Edward Snowden: 'I Do Miss My Country'

By    |   Monday, 06 April 2015 01:03 PM

Comedian John Oliver interviewed former NSA contractor Edward Snowden as part of a segment on the United States government's surveillance program that aired Sunday night.

Oliver, the host of HBO's "Last Week Tonight," traveled to Russia to interview Snowden, who has been on the run from U.S. authorities since 2013 and is currently living in Russia on a three-year residency permit. Snowden leaked thousands of pages of documents that detailed several classified surveillance programs.

The interview with Snowden, whom many people have called either a "traitor" or a "whistleblower," was both serious and humorous.

"I do miss my country, I do miss my home, I do miss my family," Snowden said.

When asked why he decided to leak classified documents and expose some of the NSA's mass surveillance techniques, Snowden said the top secret agency is using its capabilities against its own citizens.

"The NSA has the greatest surveillance capabilities that we have ever seen in history," Snowden said. "Now, what they will argue is that they don't use this for nefarious purposes against American citizens. In some ways, that's true. But the real problem is they're using these capabilities to make us vulnerable to them, and then saying, 'well, I have a gun pointed at your head. I'm not gonna pull the trigger. Trust me.'

"I worked with mass surveillance systems against Chinese hackers. I saw that these things do have some purpose.

"Spies are great when they're on our side. But we can never forget that they're incredibly powerful, incredibly dangerous. And if they're off the leash, they can end up coming after us."

Snowden has been in Russia since June 2013. He was granted asylum for one year before being given permission by the Russian government last August to stay in the country for three years as a temporary resident.

Snowden was asked if he has read all of the documents he stole from the NSA servers.

"I've evaluated all of the documents that are in the archive," he said. "I do understand what I turned over."

Snowden said he's "not handling anything anymore," in terms of the documents. "That's been passed to the journalists, and they're using extraordinary security measures to make sure that this is reported in the most responsible way."

Oliver brought up an example in which The New York Times published a document that was not properly redacted, and it revealed details of an action the U.S. was taking against al-Qaida in Mosul, Iraq.

The host then played a short video of people being interviewed in Times Square and were asked who Snowden was. Many of them said they either didn't know who he was or gave wrong information — one person even said: "He's in charge of WikiLeaks."

"We can't expect everybody to be uniformly informed," Snowden said.

When asked why he decided to leak the sensitive documents, Snowden said he had the rights of American citizens in mind.

"I did this to give the American people a chance to decide for themselves the kind of government they want to have," Snowden said. "That is a conversation that I think the American people deserve to decide."

Snowden was "initially terrified" his actions would quickly blow over in the media in a matter of a days.

"But when I saw that everybody around the world said, 'whoa, this is a problem. We have to do something about this,' it felt like vindication," Snowden said.

The "Last Week Tonight" segment on surveillance is below, with the portion containing the Snowden interview starting around the 14:00 mark.

Story continues below video.

A Mediaite report, meanwhile, calls out some of the more comedic portions of the Snowden interview.

Oliver's HBO show typically takes a satirical look at news, but much of the Snowden interview struck a more journalistic tone.

"The interview … was something like a Frost/Nixon moment, proving the comedian can ask a hard-edged question," reads a Bloomberg story. "Oliver pushed hard against Snowden, whom he described as 'the most famous hero and/or traitor in recent American history,' with a particular focus on Snowden's [decision] to leak unredacted documents."

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Comedian John Oliver interviewed former NSA contractor Edward Snowden as part of a segment on the United States government's surveillance program that aired Sunday night.
Edward Snowden, interview, John Oliver, NSA
Monday, 06 April 2015 01:03 PM
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