NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden logged online for a fleeting moment this morning to answer the public's questions about his revelations of terrifically widespread government spying.
The Guardian fielded questions on Twitter (under the quickly snark-ified #AskSnowden tag) and directly on its site, eliciting from the 29-year-old ex-intelligence analyst some "stunning allegations" about the scope of surveillance, life as a federally branded traitor and why he sacrificed everything to become a whistleblower.
During the brief online forum, Snowden told his audience that he stands by his decision to leak information he felt violated the public's civil liberties. No regrets, he says, despite the criticism from the powers-that-be.
"Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American, and the more panicked talk we hear from people like him, [Sen. Diane] Feinstein and [Rep. Peter] King, the better off we all are" he wrote, according to the Guardian. "If they had taught a class on how to be the kind of citizen Dick Cheney worries about, I would have finished high school."
Here I've compiled more highlights from the interview ...
On being accused of treason:
"... let's be clear: I did not reveal any U.S. operations against legitimate military targets. I pointed out where the NSA has hacked civilian infrastructure such as universities, hospitals, and private businesses because it is dangerous. These nakedly, aggressively criminal acts are wrong no matter the target."
On why he waited to leak:
"Obama's campaign promises and election gave me faith that he would lead us toward fixing the problems he outlined in his quest for votes. Many Americans felt similarly. Unfortunately, shortly after assuming power, he closed the door on investigating systemic violations of law, deepened and expanded several abusive programs, and refused to spend the political capital to end the kind of human rights violations like we see in Guantanamo, where men still sit without charge."
On the denials of PRISM knowledge by Big Tech:
"Their denials went through several revisions as it become more and more clear they were misleading and included identical, specific language across companies."
On rumors that he works for China:
"Ask yourself: if I were a Chinese spy, why wouldn't I have flown directly into Beijing? I could be living in a palace petting a phoenix by now."
On why you should care:
"Thanks to everyone for their support, and remember that just because you are not the target of a surveillance program does not make it OK."
On whether he'd encourage others to risk it all to become a whistleblower:
"This country is worth dying for."
Find Jennifer Wadsworth on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.