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Laura Poitras and Edward Snowden receive 2014 Ridenhour Prize for truth-telling (transcript)

transcriber's picture

Via live video feed:

 

Laura Poitras: Today a lot of people have talked about the risks that whistleblowers have taken and I just would like to acknowledge the impact on their families and how difficult that is, and I believe that some people in Ed’s family are here today and I just want to acknowledge the sacrifice that they’ve made.

Edward Snowden: I actually can see my father sitting in the front row there, but I didn’t want to call him out because I didn’t want to add any... Thank you for coming, I really appreciate your support. I know this has been hard for everyone, and I love you, Dad. So thank you.

* * *

2014 Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling
Presented to Laura Poitras and Edward Snowden
April 30, 2014

YouTube posted May 5, 2014 by TheNationInstitute

TRANSCRIPT

Danielle Brian: I know a number of members of the extended Ridenhour family are uncomfortable with our next award. But the Ridenhour prizes have always dealt with difficult issues, and dealing with difficult issues is, frankly, difficult. We’ve heard misgivings about Snowden’s actions and what we don’t yet know. So today we confront this question: What would you do if you learned through your job that your government was extending its reach into our lives beyond what the public understood and what the Constitution may protect? What if you witnessed the nation’s intelligence chief misrepresent the facts about it to Congress? And what if you saw the careers of those destroyed before you who went through internal channels?

And you need to keep in mind, as Randy mentioned before, this is so important, despite various official claims to the contrary, including from Hillary this past weekend, there literally are no meaningful and safe channels through which Snowden could have made his disclosures, and certainly not with the impact that we’ve witnessed.

After much discussion, the selection committee was clear that Edward Snowden’s revelations about NSA domestic surveillance have had a historic and positive influence. Snowden along with the work of co-recipient filmmaker and journalist Laura Poitras have allowed a public debate on the proper role of the national security agencies and freedom that those in other countries, including in China and Russia, are not free to have.

We concluded the best person to introduce and put into perspective the 2014 Truth-teller Awards is James Bamford. James is not unacquainted with the difficulties of reporting on the NSA, when he wrote The Puzzle Palace in 1982 – that’s pretty extraordinary. Although he obtained his records through legal channels including the Freedom of Information Act, the government retroactively reclassified some of those documents and threatened prosecution to stop publication. Happily, Bamford prevailed and was able to publish not only that book but what became a trilogy, and is widely recognized as perhaps the most knowledgeable journalist to report on the NSA. Jim.

[applause]

James Bamford: Thank you very much. I’m certainly not one of those who are uncomfortable. I’m very happy to be here, very honored to be here, to make this introduction to two extraordinary people, Laura Poitras and Edward Snowden. Matter of fact, since Danielle mentioned when my first book was published, 1982, that was a year before Edward Snowden was even born, so I’ve been doing this a while

Matter of fact, when The Puzzle Palace first came out, the old joke going around Washington was that NSA stood for No Such Agency. There was even a time when I was on a TV show with Bill Bradley, the senator from New Jersey, when I was doing publicity for my book, and on the way to the studio he said, “What’s your book about?” And I said, “It’s about NSA, the National Security Agency.” And he said, “What’s that?” So when we got on the show, I said even Senator Bradley didn’t know what NSA was, and he took a separate car back to the hotel that night.

[laughter]

More recently, some of my deep cover contacts at NSA have told me that the new joke is that NSA now stands for Not Secret Anymore. So.

[laughter, applause]

And no one is more responsible for that than Edward Snowden and Laura Poitras.

I first met Laura back in 2011 when I was living in London, and we met at the Arts Club, and she told me this extraordinary story about every time she’s flown in or out of the United States, some 40 times I think it was, she’d be pulled aside, she’d be interrogated, she’d be frisked, she’d often have her electronic equipment taken from her. And I thought this was extraordinary, since obviously she’s not a terrorist. And the entire time she was doing this nobody would explain to her why this was happening. And the only weapon that she ever carried was a videocamera. But it was a very powerful weapon, because she was doing documentaries on what the United States was turning to after 9/11.

We were a country that was going through, as has been spoken here many times, torture, we were doing all kinds of things, and so she decided to do a trilogy of documentaries on that topic. Her first one, My Country, My Country, was a really compelling story about life for Iraqis under U.S. occupation and was nominated for an Academy Award, and the second one was called The Oath. It was a very moving account of two Yemeni men caught up in America’s war on terror, and it won the award at Sundance.

So at that luncheon at the Arts Club in London, she told me she was turning her attention to a new topic, a third documentary, and that was going to be on surveillance, particularly focusing on NSA. So she said she was on her way to Utah. I had written about the NSA’s huge data center in Utah, and that Utah data center was a million square feet. It really was a sort of symbol of where NSA had gone. So she was focusing her new documentary on NSA, and as I said, she was on her way to Utah. And I said, “You know, it’s extremely difficult getting NSA sources, so don’t get your hopes up.”

[laughter]

And then in January 2013 she received an anonymous message. “I am a senior member of the intelligence community,” it said. “This won’t be a waste of your time.” It was sent by Edward Snowden and would probably be the understatement of the century.

Years earlier Ed Snowden enlisted in the Army Reserves as a Special Forces recruit. He broke both his legs in a training accident and later joined the CIA and then became a contractor at Dell and Booz Allen for NSA. Soon documents began crossing his computers, and, to say the least, he was very troubled by what he was seeing. Very few people, having written about NSA for a long time, do anything about it when they see something troubling them on a computer.

Well, Ed Snowden wasn’t everybody. Rather than go through the bureaucracy of the NSA, he tried as best he could to tell the story inside what was going on, and it wasn’t working very well. And what he was seeing was extraordinary. He was seeing that everyone’s metadata was being picked up. Everybody who’s old enough to pick up a phone, every time that phone would be picked up and turned on there’d be a record of it, and it would be kept for years and years and years going back at least five years. There were back doors being planted into the internet. FISA court orders were being disregarded or ignored. Encryption, the last resort for privacy, was undermined by covert deals and weakened by algorithms. Pleased with themselves, employees of NSA drew top-secret smiley faces on their slides.

The NSA had basically become a runaway train, a runaway surveillance train, and without an emergency brake on the inside, Ed Snowden hoped to stop the train the only way he could, on the outside.

And thus he passed the evidence of all this wrongdoing that was being done by the NSA to Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald. He knew without the documents that the agency would simply deny this is happening, say he’s a disgruntled employee, and disregard what he’s saying, and most of the press would probably pick up on that. But he saw what happened to Bill Binney, Kirk Wiebe, Tom Drake when they tried to tell what was going on. And they tried to tell it verbally. They tried to tell what was going on verbally. And, again, the NSA would come after them and say, “That’s not true.” General Alexander would say, “This is nonsense. We’re completely obeying the law.” And so the only solution was to actually show the documents, and that’s what Ed did. He came out with the documents, and so there was no question about what NSA was doing, no question what NSA is up to.

Basically what Ed did was show us all what the government has been doing to us behind our backs for all these years, and that is a tremendous, I think it’s just a tremendous advantage that the American public now knows, finally, that their calls, every time they pick up a phone it's being picked up, that their digital interactions on the internet are being monitored by NSA. And that is extremely dangerous when you’re getting into monitoring people’s interactions on the internet. If you’re just monitoring their phone calls, there’s communications between two people. When you’re monitoring their interaction on the internet with Google searches and so forth, you’re basically getting into people’s thoughts, because people sit before their computer and they’re exchanging ideas that they might not exchange with another person on earth. So finding out what the government was doing on this is extremely important.

Just to conclude here, I was in Rio visiting Glenn Greenwald. He showed me one of the documents. It was probably the most shocking one I’ve seen. What it was was a document that came basically from the director of NSA. His name was at the top of it. And it said that, “Look,” basically, “we can get into people’s accounts. We could find out when they’re getting onto porn sites and so forth. We could start using these vulnerabilities against people.” And he wasn’t talking about terrorists. He wasn’t talking about criminals. He was talking about radicals. And he was including American citizens in there.

I saw the list. I mean, when the document came out the actual names were redacted, but there are American names in there, and what it hearkened back to was what we were discussing here earlier, what Fritz was talking about, this whole idea of J. Edgar Hoover using the vulnerabilities of the radical of that time, Martin Luther King, to discredit him in front of his followers. I mean, if they couldn’t arrest him for something, they could at least discredit him.

And so we were, the circle was coming almost full back at that point, and I realized that when I saw that document. So I’m very grateful that we were able to find out what was happening at this time. Because as someone who has watched that train heading to that abyss – and that’s what Frank Church called it, an abyss – for a very long time, I’m very grateful to Ed Snowden and Laura Poitras for bringing this all to our attention. So I’m very happy to introduce them to you for a discussion. Hopefully the electronics will work here.

[applause, standing ovation to remote video screen]

Laura Poitras via video: Thank you all so much. I’m deeply honored to receive this award by a man who exposed war crimes. In response to the introduction, I just want to say that I feel very confident that both Ron Ridenhour and history will celebrate the decision to award this to Edward Snowden.

Many of my personal heroes in the room, and I’d like to acknowledge them. Tom Drake and William Binney, NSA whistleblowers who I started filming with in 2011. Jim Bamford, a great hero of mine, and who I had the privilege of spending a lot of time with these last years and who I hope to continue to work with. Betty Metzger and Fritz Schwarz, who brought to light Cointelpro, and we are all very grateful to their work.

I’d like to share this award with my beloved friend and colleague, Glenn Greenwald. Without Glenn’s courage and focus, I would not have been able to do this reporting, nor would I have had as much fun in the past months or been able to handle the amount of stress that we’ve been placed under. So this is also for Glenn.

I’m especially honored to receive this award with Ed Snowden. One year ago, last April, I received an anonymous e-mail from this source I’d been corresponding with for several months, and he wrote something that set my heart racing and my head spinning. Until that day I assumed that this source claiming to have evidence of massive NSA illegal surveillance intended to remain anonymous and that it would be my responsibility to protect his identify and to report on these disclosures. In this e-mail he patiently explained that I needed to change my expectations. He told me that I could not protect his identity and that he did not want me to. He said he intended to claim responsibility for his actions and that he would outline his motivations that led him to come forward and the dangers that he saw inside the agency. He simply asked one thing of me, which was to safely return this information to the American public so that they could decide the kind of government that they wanted to live under.

Reading this e-mail one year ago today, I never imagined I’d be speaking here in this room. I have spent many years in war zones documenting and I have not experienced the kind of fear and intimidation that I have doing reporting on the NSA, and so it’s wonderful to be here, although I can’t be there in person because I don’t feel that I can do reporting right now in the United States, given some of the experience I’ve had with the U.S. government in response to my reporting. So it’s wonderful to be here today and to speak to you a year after a time that I wasn’t sure, there was a lot of uncertainty, and to see the amount of support and encouragement for the reporting and the international response to the information that Ed has brought forward. And I – at this point the responsibility lies in the hands of citizens how to move forward with this information. And with that, I’m going to turn over to Ed.

[applause]

Edward Snowden via video: Thanks, Laura. Well, I have to agree with Laura about at least one thing, which is that, you know, a year ago there was no way I could have imagined that I would end up here being honored in this room. When I began this, I never expected to receive the level of support that I did from the public. Having seen what had happened to people who came before, specifically Thomas Drake, it was an intimidating thing, and I realized that the highest likelihood, the most likely outcome of returning this information to public hands would be that I would spend the rest of my life in prison. I did it because I thought it was the right thing to do.

Now, what’s important about this is that I’m not the only one who felt this way. There were people throughout the NSA that I worked with, that I had private conversations with, that I’ve had conversations with since in other federal agencies, who had the same concerns I did but they were afraid to take action because they knew what would happen. I can specifically remember a conversation in the wake of James Clapper’s famous lie to Senator Wyden, where I asked my co-worker, “You know, why doesn’t anybody say anything about this?” And he said, “Do you know what they do to people who do?” And at that time I said yes. He didn’t understand why.

By that time I had read the laws, I knew what would happen. I knew that there were no whistleblower protections that would protect me from prosecution as a private contractor as opposed to a government civilian, a direct government employee. But that didn’t change my calculus of what needed to be done. And the fact that I knew there were so many others who had the same concerns, who knew that what we were doing had gone too far, had departed from what we were supposed to be doing, had departed from the fundamental principles of what our U.S. intelligence community is all about, serving the public good, that I was confident that I could do it. Knowing that even if it cost me so much, it would be giving back so much to so many others who were struggling with the same problems, that it would be worth it.

And so because of this I have to say that although I am honored to be in the company of so many distinguished Ridenhour awardees, this prize is not just for me, this prize is for a cohort, a cohort of so many people, whistleblowers who came before me, the Binneys, the Drakes, the Wiebes, and the other intelligence officers throughout the intelligence community who remember that the first principle of any American intelligence official is not an oath to secrecy, but a duty to the public, a commitment to speak truth to power, to prevent the sort of intelligence failures that lead us to wars, that don’t protect our country, that don’t keep anybody safe, and in fact put us all at risk. This is the same principle underlying the actions of our free press, that’s brought us and given back so much to the global community, not just the American community, over the last year. And it’s critical that we remember as a democracy these people who give so much and these people who serve in silence who try to do the right thing and who may not be in a position to change things themselves directly are still trying, because they know that they don’t serve officials, they don’t serve power, they serve the public.

There’s been a lot said about oaths, and the oath that I remember is James Clapper raising his hand swearing to tell the truth and then lying to the American public. I also swore an oath, but that oath was not to secrecy, that oath was to protect and defend our Constitution and the policies of this nation against all enemies foreign and domestic.

[applause]

Thank you.

But what I saw was our Constitution being violated on a massive scale, and I did report this internally. I told all of my coworkers. I told my superiors. I showed them Boundless Informant, which is a global heat map, an internal heat map that any NSA employee could see, anyone with an internal [...] account could see that showed the precedents, the level of incidence of NSA interception, collection, storage and analysis of events around the world. And I asked these people, because this is what the tool showed, “Do you think it’s right that the NSA is collecting more information about Americans in America than it is about Russians in Russia?”

Because that’s what our systems do. We watch our own people more closely than we watch any other population in the world. Despite the protections, they are policy based; the technical systems ingest and collect everyone in this room’s communication. When you pick up the phone, when you make a call, when you make a purchase, when you buy a book, all of that is collected, and I could see it at my desk crossing my screen.

People had questions about whether or not it was true, whether or not it was really possible, whether I was exaggerating when I said, “I sitting at my desk could wiretap anyone in America from a federal judge to the president of the United States,” and I’m telling you that is not hyperbole. So long as I had a private e-mail address or some other digital network intelligence selector, it’s true.

And what is truly frightening but has not been reported at all since these disclosures is that it’s happened before. In 2009 the New York Times reported that an NSA analyst inappropriately accessed Bill Clinton’s e-mail.

We also saw the stories of disclosures to Congress about the LOVEINT so-called program, a sort of an internal banter name, where NSA analysts, military analysts were abusing these tools to monitor their wives, their girlfriends, their lovers.

The question that we have to ask ourselves is, when they committed these crimes, when James Clapper committed a crime by lying under oath to the American people, were they actually held accountable? Was anyone tried? Were charges brought? It’s been years since these events occurred, whereas within 24 hours of the time I went public, three counts of charges were filed against me personally. We have to ask ourselves, if we can hold the lowest, most junior members of our community to this high standard of behavior, why can’t we ask the same of our most senior officials? [applause] James Clapper is the most senior intelligence official in the United States of America, and I think he has a duty to tell the truth to the public.

Since that time, thanks to the work of our free press, thanks to the work of our elected representatives, thanks to the work of our civil society, these policies, these abuses, the collect-it-all mentality, these systems that are gathering and aggregating the haystack of our human lives, are changing. And though they’re not finished yet and we haven’t won the day, we have to continue to press for reforms. We will get there so long as we try. A republic if you can keep it, as they say.

And we have to remember that the world has changed. The way we live has changed. Our values have not changed. And though we need reforms from the courts and the Congress, we’ll get Supreme Court decisions, we’ll get laws passed, hopefully we’ll see the USA Freedom Act, which is the only act that really starts to address these concerns, get passed, we’ll also see contributions, we’ll see changes made by principled, skilled technologists throughout the U.S. academic community and around the world working to enshrine our values of privacy and the commitment to freedom, the commitment to liberty, into the very fabric of our global infrastructure around the world so not only do we protect American citizens’ freedoms, but we protect the freedoms of citizens everywhere, whether they’re in Russia, whether they’re in China. So it doesn’t matter if some government somewhere passes these terrible laws. Out technology can enforce our rights even where governments fail to do so.

[applause]

I don’t have any – sorry, this is all sort of off the cuff. I’m not a statesman, I’m not a speaker, I don’t have great prepared remarks, but I would say this is the way forward. It’s cooperation, it’s working together, it’s thinking and having a public dialogue, it’s getting government out from behind closed doors and restoring the public to its seat at the table of government, and together we can restore the balance of our rights to what our Constitution promises and in fact guarantees. Thank you.

[prolonged applause]

James Bamford: Thank you, Ed and Laura. That was terrific. I was told that we have a few minutes, about 10 or 15 minutes, for questions and answers and a dialogue basically. I’d like to just start off with maybe a question for Ed, and then Ed and Laura can maybe have a bit of a back and forth, which would be really interesting to hear. The question, since we’re here at the Truth-telling Award, the question I’d ask Ed is, what advice if any would you give to somebody else that was in your position, somebody else that may be sitting at NSA today and seeing something go across their desk that is very questionable or illegal? Having gone through what you’ve gone through, what would you tell them? How would you advise them? Or what is the role that they could play at this point?

Edward Snowden: So this is always a difficult question, because I think every case is very unique. It depends on what you see, how you see it, what does it involve? What I would say is Thomas Drake showed us that even if you reveal classic waste, fraud and abuse from a program that’s simply based on wasting money, frivolous spending, things like that, and you take it to Congress, there’s a very good chance the FBI will kick in your door, pull you out of the shower naked at gunpoint in front of your family and ruin your life. He was the senior executive at the National Security Agency, and now he works at an Apple store. And actually our own Inspector Generals in the DOD and the NSA are the ones who reported him to the DOJ.

So you have to be careful about the system as it is. I would say ideally work with Congress in advance to try to make sure that we have reformed laws, that we have better protections, that all these shortcomings and failures in our oversight infrastructure are addressed so that the next time we have an American whistleblower who has something the public needs to know, they can go to their lawyer’s office instead of the airport. Right now I’m not sure that they have a real alternative, but if they’re going to do something, they’d better use encryption and they’d better do it from an IP address that’s not at their home.

James Bamford: Well, that brings up a question for Laura that I was going to ask because of everything that’s happened in the past year. It appears that encryption now is really a key, and you are really a pioneer in this entire, really a pioneer in terms of encryption. Before you came along and had your discussions with Ed, there were very few reporters I ever talked to that knew anything about encryption. Now I’m talking to more and more people that do have encryption. Could you just tell me a little bit about your experience in dealing with encryption and how that put you in touch with Ed and how important that is in the future?

Laura Poitras: Sure, of course. I actually don’t consider myself a pioneer in encryption, but I am a journalist who knows how to use it and I know how to use it because I feel it’s essential to the work that I do and to protect my sources. And so when Ed reached out to me in January 2013, I had a public key and I had used encryption for the, I guess, two years prior or maybe three, so it was somewhat common to me to be able to use that. But as soon as I got a sense of what Ed was talking about and the extent of evidence that he had, I knew that actually what I was using on the system that I had wasn’t going to be enough, and there was a series of ramping up the kind of security and protection that I felt we needed to communicate, and he also guided me and taught me some things about how to do that.

So in terms of journalists and using encryption, I mean I think it’s essential. I mean I think if anyone wants to, anyone inside the government now, particularly with the recent directive that even contact with a reporter is something that can subject you to repercussions from the government, just basic contact not revealing of any information can flag you, then I mean journalists simply have to learn it because if they want to be talking to sources inside the government, it’s essential.

And I guess I would say in terms of learning curve or difficulty, actually it’s not that complicated. You might need some help or something to set it up, but it’s simply an essential tool, because unless you’re in the same room and somebody can share this information with you, you’re not going to be able to communicate securely. And so I guess it has been one of the lessons of this particular story, because when Ed reached out to me I was absolutely familiar with what needed to happen.

James Bamford: Great. And would it be possible just to have a – I hear it’s technically possible, if we could just maybe have a couple questions back and forth between Laura and Ed. Would you like to ask Ed something that we can listen in on?

[laughter]

Laura Poitras: Sure, I’ll ask a question. So recently Betty Metzger published an extraordinary book that documented the activists in Media, Pennsylvania, who broke into an FBI office and ultimately revealed Cointelpro, and I’m just curious if that’s a case you had known about before and any thoughts you might have.

Edward Snowden: So I think everyone in the intelligence community was familiar with Cointelpro, but the actual act of how it became public for me was a surprise. I hadn’t known the story, the mythology behind it. And it is incredible, the courage that they had. It takes a lot of chutzpah to actually break into the FBI office to steal from them and then send it to the press.

But it’s important to realize that even though they broke the law to do that, they revealed some of the most important government abuses of the last century. And I think that’s really something that we all have to remember is that there are cases, and there have been throughout history and there will continue to be throughout time, where what is lawful is not necessarily right or necessarily moral. It doesn’t take long for an American to think back a time when –

[applause]

It doesn’t long for an American to think back to periods when things were legal but they weren’t ethical and they weren’t moral. And I think today when we see similar policies beginning, every citizen has a duty to resist those and try to build a better, more fair society.

Danielle Brian: I’m sorry to interrupt, just for a second. I want to make it clear that no one can be recording. There had been an understanding with the media, but others in the room who have iPhones need to also understand you’re not permitted to be recording this right now. Thank you.

[murmurs]

James Bamford: That goes for all the NSA people here too.

[laughter]

So, Ed, would you like to just have a question for Laura?

Edward Snowden: So there’s always questions about recording, but I guess I shouldn’t get into them here. Recently there’s been a big controversy with encryption bugs online where it was discovered that there were these phenomenal weaknesses in internet encryption standards and vulnerabilities, some of which the NSA knew about and had been actively exploiting under, for example, the Bullrun program in last year's reporting and the newly reported bugs like the SSL Heartbleed bug in the open SSL encryption suite. That’s a little bit technical, but the general idea is that the NSA has two branches of the house. They’ve got the attack side and the defense side. The defense side, as you’ve seen in the documents, never gets any love. The attack side gets all the money, all the interest from Congress because it’s sexy and interesting. But what that has resulted in is sort of a paradigm where U.S. government policy directed by the National Security Agency, which was intentionally designed to protect America’s communications, is now making a choice, a binary choice between security of our communications and the vulnerability of global communications to allow us to listen in on. Sometimes they’re intentionally backdooring things, sometimes they’re not patching weaknesses to make it easier, and in general the soul of the agency is in conflict, between attacking and defense. Why do you think it is that they keep the agency together under one roof, based on what you’ve seen, as opposed to actually splitting it out into a purely defensive role that serves the public interest and America’s interests more broadly as well as our allies’, and then an offensive role that goes against specific targets, that goes in the traditional intelligence-gathering role that we’ve had for, you know, decades. How do you feel about that?

Laura Poitras: You know, one question or one thing that comes up when looking at the documents is how – I mean, there are those things that the NSA claims that they’re regulating, and then there are things that seem to fall outside of that, and I’m not sure that if we were to separate those things, then what kind of oversight there would ever be if we were to branch out with the exploitation part of what NSA does, because it seems to be already acting with free rein as it is. So I think it’s more of an oversight. But I do think that there are serious concerns about restructuring. I mean, I wonder, their combining of USCYBERCOM with NSA and militarizing the internet, which I think is an absolute threat to free speech and democracies internationally. So all of this needs to be, you know, understood and discussed and policies need to be made that protect free speech, democracy, the internet, the future of the internet.

Edward Snowden: What’s your level of confidence that the intelligence committees in Congress, the Senate and the House, Mike Rogers and Dianne Feinstein chairing them, are going to be the most likely bodies to reform the NSA, as opposed to the broader body of Congress, perhaps the judiciary committees?

Laura Poitras: Yeah, I mean I think we need a new Frank Church, right? And I don’t have a lot of faith in our elected leaders. I mean, they have immunity. They could go and speak about what they know, you know, in Congress, and they have immunity, and they choose not to. So right now I don’t have a lot of faith.

James Bamford: I’m told that our time is just running out for further discussion, but that was terrific and I really appreciate you two carrying on a discussion in front of us. It’s really an honor here. But I –

Laura Poitras: Jim, can I say one thing?

James Bamford: Oh, sure.

Laura Poitras: Today a lot of people have talked about the risks that whistleblowers have taken and I just would like to acknowledge the impact on their families and how difficult that is, and I believe that some people in Ed’s family are here today and I just want to, you know, acknowledge the sacrifice that they’ve made.

[applause]

Edward Snowden: I actually can see my father sitting in the front row there, but I didn’t want to call him out because I didn’t want to add any... Thank you for coming, I really appreciate your support. I know this has been hard for everyone, and I love you, Dad. So thank you.

[applause]

James Bamford: That’s a perfect note to announce that the award for Ed is being accepted by Ed’s father, Lon Snowden, and Jesselyn Raddack, who is the attorney with the Government Accountability Project and was Ed’s lawyer and his staunch advocate. Jesselyn also worked with me on the Tom Drake case and was a tremendous help for us to get Tom from going to jail. So I really appreciate it.

[prolonged applause, cheers]

James Bamford: Now it’s a really great privilege to introduce Bill Binney, who is accepting the award for Laura. And Bill is a fantastic person. He was a whistleblower par excellence. He was a senior official at NSA, saw what was happening with the warrantless eavesdropping and decided that after 40 years of work at NSA, rising to the most senior levels, he’d become a whistleblower, and he told a great deal about what NSA was doing. and I think that that’s just a tremendous amount of courage, so I’m really glad that you’re accepting for Laura.

[applause]

Now I’ll turn it over to Danielle again. Thank you.

Danielle Brian: One thing that was acknowledged at the beginning was the many sponsoring individuals and organizations that helped to make this event possible, but that actually doesn’t cover the cost, and so you may all notice that there are some envelopes on your desk. Please consider helping to contribute to help make sure that we can continue to provide this kind of performance each year, and there’ll be people at the doors who can take those envelopes. We are now, if those who want to hear more of a conversation about NSA surveillance, we’re going to be retiring to the Holeman Lounge for a fabulous panel discussion on exactly the kind of reforms that Ed was just talking about. So please don’t loiter because it’s going to start in about five minutes. Thank you very much for an amazing day.

[applause]

* * *

 

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V. Arnold's picture
Submitted by V. Arnold on

...that; I listened to the whole awards ceremony. Just wonderful...

Submitted by lambert on

Especially this:

And so because of this I have to say that although I am honored to be in the company of so many distinguished Ridenhour awardees, this prize is not just for me, this prize is for a cohort, a cohort of so many people, whistleblowers who came before me, the Binneys, the Drakes, the Wiebes, and the other intelligence officers throughout the intelligence community who remember that the first principle of any American intelligence official is not an oath to secrecy, but a duty to the public, a commitment to speak truth to power, to prevent the sort of intelligence failures that lead us to wars, that don’t protect our country, that don’t keep anybody safe, and in fact put us all at risk. This is the same principle underlying the actions of our free press, that’s brought us and given back so much to the global community, not just the American community, over the last year. And it’s critical that we remember as a democracy these people who give so much and these people who serve in silence who try to do the right thing and who may not be in a position to change things themselves directly are still trying, because they know that they don’t serve officials, they don’t serve power, they serve the public.

There’s been a lot said about oaths, and the oath that I remember is James Clapper raising his hand swearing to tell the truth and then lying to the American public. I also swore an oath, but that oath was not to secrecy, that oath was to protect and defend our Constitution and the policies of this nation against all enemies foreign and domestic.