Snowden hosts Reddit AMA over Congress’ mass surveillance plan

© Snowden / Twitter

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and the ACLU held a live Reddit Ask Me Anything session, which included 400 questions on congressional plans to sneak in a bill to expand mass surveillance measures.

Of the 440 questions asked Wednesday, about 20 garnered responses from the panelists, which included American Civil Liberties Union attorney Ashley Gorski, ACLU legislative counsel Neema Singh Guliani, and Snowden.

“How does calling the congress members help if the lawmakers are bought by lobbyists and do what they want anyway?” “What can be done about people that don’t care about mass surveillance and use arguments like ‘I have nothing to hide’ or ‘I already know the NSA and companies like Google or Facebook can read or hear through my messages and I accept it’” and “What if I like being watched?”

To which Snowden responded to by posting:

One poster wanted to know what the panel thought was the “most disturbing thing the NSA has the capability of doing in regards to surveillance?”

Posting as “SuddenlySnowden,” the National Security Agency whistleblower said the public should not focus on just one disturbing aspect of NSA surveillance. He posted several links to underreported news stories, showing how the NSA worked with corporations to spy on internet traffic, studied the social networks of US citizens, collected millions of faces of people from web images, and used webcams for spying.

Snowden said one of the tools he used while at the NSA to spy on his targets was XKEYSCORE, which allowed him to look at the full internet activity history of his target using their IP (Internet protocol) address. He also said the NSA would spy on radicals’ pornography viewing habits “for the purpose of leaking it to discredit them.”

“But I think the scariest thing to consider is that it is, in the opinion of the Congress – though it has never been fully established as constitutional by the supreme court – that the NSA can ‘ingest’ into its surveillance systems without a warrant any communication that is only “one end domestic.’ Does that sound right to you?” wrote Snowden.

“That ‘one end domestic’ collection authority (Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act) is the power they’re trying to expand right now, and they’ll succeed at it unless they get flooded with calls before the vote, which could happen in just hours,” he added.

Congress is set to reauthorize controversial Section 702 under a plan – the Liberty Act – introduced by Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont).

US intelligence agencies would be given permission to spy on and store internet metadata and communications of foreign people living outside the US, along with communications of US citizens who get “swept up” in the data collection. The data could then be searched at a later date without a warrant.

Authorization for the George W. Bush-era program is set to expire on December 31 if Congress doesn’t renew it. The Liberty Act would extend Section 702 for six years.

Some posts were completely off topic, asking Snowden why the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 doesn’t protect people like him, how good he was with a Rubik’s cube, and whether the framed circuit board in his AMA profile picture was from one of the computers The Guardian was forced to destroy.

Another poster asked what the average citizen could do to effect change, seeing that elected officials didn’t seem too concerned about invasions of privacy.

ACLU’s Neema Singh Guliani replied that the average citizen should call their member of Congress providing a link about the bill in question, and then spread the word among friends and family to call.

“After calling, you should organize people in your community to schedule meetings with elected officials. Just call your representative’s office and ask for a meeting,” wrote Guliani, ACLU legislative counsel.

At the end of the AMA, Snowden and the panel urged the public to remain vigilant.

“It doesn’t look like a vote is going to take place today, but this fight isn’t over – Congress could still sneak an expansion of mass surveillance into law this week. We have to keep the pressure on,” they wrote.