In the interview, Snowden spoke to NBC’s Brian Williams at length about a variety of topics, many of which he has discussed in conversations with foreign and print journalists. Among them, Snowden refuted claims that he is a traitor, denied suggestions that is he is being controlled by the Russian government and expressed a desire to return to the United States.
During a web special in which NBC analysts picked apart the interview, the network published three clips that did not make the final cut in the broadcast. Those clips offered a rare glimpse into Snowden’s thoughts on President Obama, how the government interprets the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution and why the whistleblower believes government officials pervasively exploit the fear of another September 11-style terrorist attack in its design of surreptitious surveillance programs.
Here are the clips, along with a transcription of each soundbyte produced by The Desk.
On President Obama’s campaign promise for government reform:
Brian Williams (NBC): Did you vote for President Obama?
Edward Snowden: I think — I think who people voted for is something that should be kept private. Now what —
B. Williams: Did he disappoint you?
E. Snowden: — what I will say on that is that, whether or not I voted for President Obama, I was inspired by him. He gave me courage, he gave me hope. I really believed that he would be a positive force for the country, and I still hope he will be.
B. Williams: You, however, looked at it — you were hoping he would reverse some of the Bush policies. You were quoted as saying you were disappointed that he did not.
E. Snowden: Well, he said he would.
B. Williams: And in your view, it worsened?
E. Snowden: Uh, it’s been a logical progression. He’s embraced some policies, and he’s extended other policies. He’s not Bush. He’s his own president. But the consonance in the policies should be concerning for a lot of Americans, because he was a candidate that promised that he would give the public back its seat at the table of government, and he still has time to do so.
On the government’s use of 9/11 in defense of spy programs:
E. Snowden: I take the threat of terrorism seriously, and I think we all do. And I think it’s really disingenuous for the government to invoke and sort of scandalize our memories, to sort of exploit the national trauma that we all suffered together and worked so hard to come through to justify programs that have never been shown to keep us safe, but cost us liberties and freedoms that we don’t need to give up and our Constitution says we should not give up.
B. Williams: But you can see how it happened. Guys with box cutters spent $200 using our own aviation system to take down our own buildings and smash into the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania. What are we going to do? It’s a non-traditional enemy — the expression is, an enemy we can’t see. What are we going to do?
E. Snowden: You know, and this is a key question that the 9/11 Commission considered. And what they found, in the post-mortem, when they looked at all of the classified intelligence from all of the different intelligence agencies, they found that we had all of the information we needed as an intelligence community, as a classified sector, as the national defense of the United States to detect this plot. We actually had records of the phone calls from the United States and out. The CIA knew who these guys were. The problem was not that we weren’t collecting information, it wasn’t that we didn’t have enough dots, it wasn’t that we didn’t have a haystack, it was that we did not understand the haystack that we have.
The problem with mass surveillance is that we’re piling more hay on a haystack we already don’t understand, and this is the haystack of the human lives of every American citizen in our country. If these programs aren’t keeping us safe, and they’re making us miss connections — vital connections — on information we already have, if we’re taking resources away from traditional methods of investigation, from law enforcement operations that we know work, if we’re missing things like the Boston Marathon bombings where all of these mass surveillance systems, every domestic dragnet in the world didn’t reveal guys that the Russian intelligence service told us about by name, is that really the best way to protect our country? Or are we — are we trying to throw money at a magic solution that’s actually not just costing us our safety, but our rights and our way of life?
On the government’s interpretation of the Fourth Amendment:
E. Snowden: The Fourth Amendment as it was written no longer exists. The problem with it, the reason we have that difficulty, is one very specific interpretation that the government has made in secret. And that’s that the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure can be separated. And the government has decided, again in secret without any public debate, without anybody in Congress, without — not anybody, but without the body of our representatives in Congress knowing — is that now all of our data can be collected without any suspicion of wrongdoing on our part, without any underlying justification. All of your private records, all of your private communications, all of your transactions, all of your associations, who you talk to, who you love, what you buy, what you read — all of these things can be seized and held by the government, and then searched later, for any reason, hardly without any justification, without any real oversight, without any real accountability for those who do wrong.
The result is that the Fourth Amendment that was so strict, that we fought a revolution to put into place, now no longer has the same meaning that it once did. Now, we have a system of pervasive, pre-criminal surveillance where the government wants to watch what you’re doing just to see what you’re up to, to see what you’re thinking, even behind closed doors.