From U.S news and world report- Steven Nelson
Exiled whistleblower Edward Snowden accepted the Ridenhour Prize for truth-telling Wednesday, given in celebration of his disclosure of the National Security Agency’s massive phone and Internet surveillance programs.
“A year ago there was no way I could have imagined being honored in this room,” Snowden told an audience at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., via a choppy video feed from Russia. “I realized the most likely outcome [of giving classified documents to the press] was that I would spend the rest of my life in prison.”
“We haven’t won the day … but we will get there,” he said.
Danielle Brian, a member of the selection committee, prefaced his speech by saying some people associated with the prize were “uncomfortable” with giving it to Snowden.
“I’m certainly not one of those who is uncomfortable,” declared investigative author James Bamford as he took over the introduction.
Before Snowden’s leaks, Bamford said, the intelligence community had nearly relapsed to its abuse practices during the reign of former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. The NSA was a “runaway surveillance train,” he said.
Now, the electronic spy agency once jokingly referred to as “No Such Agency” is known as “Not Secret Anymore” among NSA workers, Bamford said, citing confidential sources.
Throughout his acceptance speech Snowden hammered Director of National Intelligence James Clapper for lying to Congress on March 12, 2013, about whether the NSA was collecting information on millions of Americans.
Snowden said he asked a co-worker at the time why nobody would expose the truth, and co-worker told him, “Do you know what happens to people who do?”
The whistleblower said it was ironic that he faced three felony charges within 24 hours of revealing his identity while the perjurious spy boss wasn’t punished, and contrasted his violation of an employment contract with Clapper’s oath-breaking.
“We watch our own people more closely than any population in the world,” Snowden said. “That is not hyperbole.”
He repeated a previous claim that he could tap the phone of anyone – even the president – if he was provided a personal email address.
Laura Poitras, the documentary filmmaker who disseminated documents that Snowden leaked, was also honored.
“I’d like to share this award with my beloved colleague Glenn Greenwald,” she said, also via video feed. Poitras and Greenwald, formerly of The Guardian, are reportedly the only people will access to the complete trove of Snowden-leaked documents.
In April 2013, Poitras recalled, she received an email from Snowden saying he planned to claim credit after the press reported his leaks. Two months later – after the bombshells dropped about the NSA collecting all American phone records and directly accessing information from major U.S. technology companies – he did so before flying from Hong Kong to Moscow.
Following their speeches, Bamford, Snowden and Poitras took turns asking each other questions.
Bamford asked Snowden to give advice to future NSA whistleblowers.
“If they’re going to do it they better have encryption,” he said, and avoid using their home IP address. “Ideally, work with Congress in advance to make sure we have reformed laws and better protections.”
“Every citizen has a duty to resist” government actions that are immoral or unethical, Snowden said. He then asked Poitras for her opinion on whether the NSA should be divided into two parts, one offensive and one defensive.
“If we were to separate those things I’m not sure what oversight we’d have,” she responded.
Snowden also asked Poitras how confident she was in the House and Senate intelligence committees’ capability to reform the NSA, compared to the chambers’ respective judiciary committees.