Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden said NSA workers regularly passed around explicit photos they came across as part of their covert surveillance efforts.
Snowden, stuck in Russia for more than a year after he exposed secret U.S. online security tactics, said in an interview with The Guardian
that young NSA employees particularly enjoyed the photos as perks of their job and had little respect for the privacy of people. Their conduct, he added, was not reported and continued with regularity.
"In the course of their daily work, they stumble upon something that is completely unrelated to their work, for example, an intimate nude photo of someone in a sexually compromising situation but they're extremely attractive," he told The Guardian. "So what do they do? They turn around in their chair and they show a co-worker. And their co-worker says: 'Oh, hey. That's great. Send that to Bill down the way.'"
In a wide-ranging interview, Snowden described a government out of control in its snooping.
"We constantly hear the phrase 'national security,' but when the state begins… broadly intercepting the communications, seizing the communications by themselves, without any warrant, without any suspicion, without any judicial involvement, without any demonstration of probable cause, are they really protecting national security or are they protecting state security?" Snowden said.
"What I came to feel — and what I think more and more people have seen at least the potential for — is that a regime that is described as a national security agency has stopped representing the public interest and has instead begun to protect and promote state security interests. And the idea of Western democracy as having state security bureaus, just that term, that phrase itself, 'state security bureau,' is kind of chilling."
NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines, in a statement to The New York Times
, said the agency doesn't tolerate willful violation of authority or professional standards and would respond to any allegation of misconduct deemed credible.
Snowden told The Guardian he had adapted to life in Russia, calling it a modern country where his life is not as isolated as many might think. He sometimes gets recognized but says he hopes to live a quiet life, focusing on real problems in the world. He said U.S. intelligence knows he is not working for any foreign government and for that reason there is no warrant out against him.
"I'm much happier here in Russia than I would be facing an unfair trial in which I can't even present a public interest defense to a jury of my peers," he told The Guardian. "We've asked [the] government again and again to provide a fair trial and they've declined.
"And I feel very fortunate to have received asylum. Russia's a modern country and it's been good to me so, yeah, I have a pretty normal life and I would absolutely like to continue to be able to travel as I have in the past. I'd love to be able to visit western Europe again but that's not a decision for me to make."
He added: "My reputation is not worth anything … What matters are how people feel about these issues, regardless of your opinion of me. What matters are your rights and how they're being infringed."
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