Edward Snowden, the US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor who leaked thousands of documents revealing the organisation's clandestine hacking activities and tools, has said he regrets nothing and claimed that his actions helped change the world for the better.
Snowden was speaking to The Guardian on the fifth anniversary of the leaks, having already left the US for Hong Kong. "It was scary but it was liberating," he told the newspaper that broke the news. "There was a sense of finality. There was no going back."
While many people argue that not much has changed, Snowden disagreed. "People say nothing has changed: that there is still mass surveillance. That is not how you measure change. Look back before 2013 and look at what has happened since. Everything changed."
He added: "The government and corporate sector preyed on our ignorance. But now we know. People are aware now. People are still powerless to stop it but we are trying. The revelations made the fight more even."
The leaks also forced a re-appraisal of privacy and security, exposing weaknesses in online webmail, for example, particularly Yahoo Mail, which served up users' email in a non-encrypted form, and Gmail, which shifted policy to force HTTPS on all Gmail communications, as well as encrypting search traffic. It also revealed how the US and UK routinely tapped communications links.
The interview, though, was somewhat short, indicating that Snowden would rather keep his head down and mouth shut, for the time being. Indeed, Snowden claimed that now he led a much quieter life, developing privacy tools for journalists. "I do not think I have ever been more fulfilled," he said.
However, the anger among senior spooks at GCHQ remains palpable. While just one per cent of the documents that Snowden leaked having been published, NSA and GCHQ staffers nevertheless have had to work under the assumption that it has all been compromised. New online surveillance tools have been developed to replace the compromised tools, The Guardian implied.
And GCHQ director Jeremy Fleming has called for Snowden to face prosecution, should the Russian government decide to eject him. Fleming claimed that GCHQ only wants to keep the UK safe, and that Snowden's revelations undermined the organisation in that role.
"What Edward Snowden did five years ago was illegal and compromised our ability to do that, causing real and unnecessary damage to the security of the UK and our allies. He should be accountable for that," he told The Guardian.
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