Edward Snowden was warmly welcomed by the audience.
- Edward Snowden did a live video conversation with Michael Krasny in San Francisco.
- Snowden revealed his ultimate plan.
- He answered a question I submitted.
After work today, I mostly dodged Dreamforce traffic and walked a few blocks to the Curran.
Tonight’s event: A once-in-a-lifetime evening in conversation with Edward Snowden and Michael Krasny on the Curran stage.
Michael Krasny, a Bay Area favorite, is the award-winning host of KQED Forum. He spoke for over an hour with former CIA employee Edward Snowden via live video link.
A Conversation with Edward Snowden and Michael Krasny
Edward Snowden received a warm welcome as soon as his image appeared on screen. It looked like a nearly sold out event.
Although I have no idealogical or political opinions on him, I do pay attention to his stances on technology.
Here are my takeaways from their conversation:
- “What we have seen is a raw grab of power by large organizations.”
- “I was CIA before I was NSA.”
- Snowden made the case there is a new technological elite- those engaged in information collection.
- “I grew up in the shadow of the NSA.”
- His father worked for 30 years in the military, his mother still works in the Federal courts (alas the irony!)
- Snowden is deeply reflective and self-aware.
- Snowden replicated the NSA’s intelligence gathering system. Then he packaged it to journalists.
- “I have never published a single document.”
- Snowden has not learned Russian yet. Michael Krasny grilled him a few times on that.
- “It’s a false choice. They want us to choose security or liberty.”
- Snowden wondered aloud whether the character of our institutions is changing or is the character of our people changing.
- “For how long does this state of emergency last?”
- “We lost liberty and did not gain security in exchange.”
- He made the case that the rules have changed and that government is watching everybody all the time.
- He applied for asylum in 21 countries.
- Snowden said former Vice President Joe Biden personally called Ecuadorian officials to prevent his asylum there.
- “I didn’t choose Russia. I tried very, very hard to choose somewhere else.”
- Snowden’s biggest fear: “I was afraid no one would listen. I was afraid no one would care.”
- “People now understand the imbalance of power.”
- Snowden reflected several times on the concept of power and how it’s now in the hands of those who gather information.
- Snowden believes privacy is about power and choice.
- Snowden believes all of the big American tech companies were complicit in PRISM.
- “The internet companies don’t want to sell you a bucket of internet.” In other words, they want to know everything about you and what you visit.
- Snowden on cyber security: “This is the central policy question no one is paying attention to.”
- Snowden on Russian election interference: “This is a game that’s been going on for a long time.”
- “It’s not why did they do it. It’s a question of why did they succeed and how can we prevent it from happening again?” Snowden on Russian hacking.
- “Intelligence services interfere in every election.”
- He doesn’t identify with a political party.
- “My ultimate plan is to return home.”
- “As good as our technology is, it’s still terrible.”
- He does not believe he is a hero.
- “Americans have no privacy. Mission accomplished.”
- “I did not graduate high school and I’m the least qualified person in the room.”
- “Encryption can’t be stopped because it’s easy to use.”
My Question for Edward Snowden
Edward Snowden as my question was read to him by Michael Krasny.
Michael Krasny made sure to allocate time to questions from the audience. From what I recall, only three or four were chosen. I got lucky with mine- it got picked. I was pretty happy about that.
Incidentally, I asked the same question to a panel of NSA, DoD and Booz Allen executives at last month’s Future Focus conference in Honolulu.
My question for Edward Snowden was:
“The Equifax breach affected 145 million Americans this year. In 2015, the Anthem breach impacted 80 million Americans.
Is it time to have a discussion about replacing the Social Security Number system? In other words, have we all been hacked?”
Snowden paused for nearly five seconds. He then politely replied: “I think the question answers itself.”
He then went on to postulate that if the Social Security Number was really meant to be used only by the government, why are big companies insisting on having it? He also wondered that even if a successor to the SSN is produced, how would we secure it?
My question for Edward Snowden.
Edward Snowden got a standing ovation.
About the Curran
The Curran was built in 1922 and has housed some of the biggest productions in theater history. It has a reputation being one of the premier live entertainment venues in North America.
Nearly a century after it welcomed its first Bay Area audiences, the Curran recently completed a major restoration and renovation. It was a very nice venue.