Quote of the day: Snowden’s decisive moment


From “The Most Wanted Man in the World,” a superb Wired report on Edward Snowden by James Bamford, the writer who ongoing documentation of the National Security Agency gave American’s their first in-depth look at the nation’s spookiest outfit:

On March 13, 2013, sitting at his desk in the “tunnel” surrounded by computer screens, Snowden read a news story that convinced him that the time had come to act. It was an account of director of national intelligence James Clapper telling a Senate committee that the NSA does “not wittingly” collect information on millions of Americans. “I think I was reading it in the paper the next day, talking to coworkers, saying, can you believe this shit?”

Snowden and his colleagues had discussed the routine deception around the breadth of the NSA’s spying many times, so it wasn’t surprising to him when they had little reaction to Clapper’s testimony. “It was more of just acceptance,” he says, calling it “the banality of evil”—a reference to Hannah Arendt’s study of bureaucrats in Nazi Germany.

“It’s like the boiling frog,” Snowden tells me. “You get exposed to a little bit of evil, a little bit of rule-breaking, a little bit of dishonesty, a little bit of deceptiveness, a little bit of disservice to the public interest, and you can brush it off, you can come to justify it. But if you do that, it creates a slippery slope that just increases over time, and by the time you’ve been in 15 years, 20 years, 25 years, you’ve seen it all and it doesn’t shock you. And so you see it as normal. And that’s the problem, that’s what the Clapper event was all about. He saw deceiving the American people as what he does, as his job, as something completely ordinary. And he was right that he wouldn’t be punished for it, because he was revealed as having lied under oath and he didn’t even get a slap on the wrist for it. It says a lot about the system and a lot about our leaders.” Snowden decided it was time to hop out of the water before he too was boiled alive.

Accompanying the article are two videos, posted online.

First, a scenesetter, featured Bamford and Platon, the very talented photographer whose mostly black-and-white images accompany the story.

From Wired:

The Most Wanted Man in the World: Behind the Scenes with Edward Snowden

Program note:

It took almost a year to arrange to interview and photograph Edward Snowden in Moscow, where he has sought asylum. Author James Bamford and photographer Platon reflect back on their encounters with the elusive whistleblower.

And the second video, consisting of Snowden’s voice and Platon’s images:

The Most Wanted Man in the World: Edward Snowden in His Own Words

Program note:

Dispatched to Moscow, famed portrait photographer Platon captured a never-before-seen side of Edward Snowden for WIRED. In this riveting montage, the elusive whistleblower explains the thinking behind his decision to reveal the extent of domestic surveillance being conducted by US intelligence services.

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