Demonstrators hoist banners featuring Edward Snowden’s photo during a protest outside of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., in October.
Edward Snowden has reclaimed the phrase “mission accomplished” from a certain former president in a much different context, couching it in terms of his appraisal of the outcome of his leaks to the press of highly classified information from his former employer, the National Security Agency.
According to Snowden, who sat for an interview with The Washington Post this week, he did what he set out to do. Currently situated in Moscow, he reflected on his choice to alert the press about the NSA’s surveillance practices and how he sizes up his role in the wake of the revelations:
Six months after the first revelations appeared in The Washington Post and Britain’s Guardian newspaper, Snowden agreed to reflect at length on the roots and repercussions of his choice. He was relaxed and animated over two days of nearly unbroken conversation, fueled by burgers, pasta, ice cream and Russian pastry.
Snowden offered vignettes from his intelligence career and from his recent life as “an indoor cat” in Russia. But he consistently steered the conversation back to surveillance, democracy and the meaning of the documents he exposed.
“For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished,” he said. “I already won. As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated. Because, remember, I didn’t want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself.”
“All I wanted was for the public to be able to have a say in how they are governed,” he said. “That is a milestone we left a long time ago. Right now, all we are looking at are stretch goals.”
The 29-year-old whistle-blower acknowledged that he wasn’t sure how his actions would be received by the civilian population, but he ultimately decided that “the alternative, which is not to act” wasn’t going to work for him. “Because even if your analysis proves to be wrong,” he said, “the marketplace of ideas will bear that out.”
Earlier, Snowden also clarified his position on helping Brazil, which he insisted was not a bid to swap information for asylum.