Edward Snowden’s big regret

Graham Cluley
Graham Cluley
@[email protected]

Edward SnowdenHot on the heels of Edward Snowden documentary “Citizenfour” winning a well-deserved Oscar, director Laura Poitras, journalist Glenn Greenwald and Snowden himself participated in an “ask me anything” chat on Reddit.

It’s a fascinating question and answer session, and I would recommend you read it.

But one question in particular stands out for Snowden’s response.

The NSA whistleblower, who now lives in Moscow, was asked if he would do anything differently in retrospect.

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Edward Snowden on Reddit

Mr. Snowden, if you had a chance to do things over again, would you do anything differently? If so, what?

I would have come forward sooner. I talked to Daniel Ellsberg about this at length, who has explained why more eloquently than I can.

Had I come forward a little sooner, these programs would have been a little less entrenched, and those abusing them would have felt a little less familiar with and accustomed to the exercise of those powers. This is something we see in almost every sector of government, not just in the national security space, but it’s very important:

Once you grant the government some new power or authority, it becomes exponentially more difficult to roll it back. Regardless of how little value a program or power has been shown to have (such as the Section 215 dragnet interception of call records in the United States, which the government’s own investigation found never stopped a single imminent terrorist attack despite a decade of operation), once it’s a sunk cost, once dollars and reputations have been invested in it, it’s hard to peel that back.

Don’t let it happen in your country.

Daniel Ellsberg, of course, was also a whistleblower. 45 years ago he exposed The Pentagon Papers which revealed that the US government was lying about the war in Vietnam, and the probability of victory.

Both Ellsberg and Snowden regret that they hadn’t spoken sooner about what they knew was happening.

But thank goodness they did something – because otherwise, maybe the Vietnam war would have lasted longer and maybe we would have had no clue about the extent of covert surveillance and illegal activity by intelligence agencies.

The final words go to Daniel Ellsberg:

Don’t do what i did.

Don’t wait until a new war has started, don’t wait until thousands more have died, before you tell the truth with documents that reveal lies or crimes or internal projections of costs and dangers.

You might save a war’s worth of lives.

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

7 comments on “Edward Snowden’s big regret”

  1. Cyber jack

    Given the situation between Russia and the West, can Snowden's words be trusted? Has he become a political pawn to be wheeled out whenever one side wants to irritate the other?

  2. Tentative Man

    So many useless people talk about that which they have no clue.

  3. Jason Borne

    If only we could get the 9/11 docs published that prove it was a false flag.

  4. The Pentagon Papers is an interesting animal. It was an accumulation of deceit by two Democratic administrations (Kennedy/Johnson) by their Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. Yet it engulfed a Republican administration (Nixon). Nixon at first read it right, it had nothing to do with his Vietnam policies and sloughed it off. But Kissinger got a hold of his ear and tricked Nixon into believing Ellsberg released the Pentagon papers to discredit Nixon's Vietnam War policies. Nixon then overreacted to say the least…the break-in into Ellsberg's psychiatrists office in Sept. 1971 followed by the Watergate break-ins in 1972. Nixon should have trusted his own instincts ignoring Ellsberg and dumped Kissinger right then and there. The shenanigans with these various break-ins is the most ridiculous things I have ever come across in my lifetime. Nothing to gain and everything to lose. G Gordon Liddy is hailed by conservatives as some sort of cult hero because he didn't rat on anybody. In reality he was a cold hearted adventurer looking for trouble and trouble came in spades putting himself in the hoosegow and destroying a presidency.

  5. Judith Ehrlich

    You might link your article to the webiste for Academy Award nominated, Peabody award winning film, "The Most Dangerous Man in America, Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers"

  6. Hello

    2 True American Heroes. Thank you for your service to our country, freedom and the constitution.

  7. Bingowings

    And don't forget the UK's very own Katherine Gun, although it didn't make a lot difference in the long run.

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