Government can’t spy on citizens, Snowden says in satellite presentation

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Director, actors and movie subject open up in streamed panel discussion at special showing.

By Sasha D. Robinson

The U.S. government violated the Constitution by spying on citizens, Edward Snowden, former CIA contractor and whistleblower living in Russia, said via satellite at a streamed panel discussion that followed a screening of the movie “Snowden” Sept. 14.

The movie opened Sept. 16 in local theaters.

Snowden stole files showing the government uses the war on terror to spy on its citizens, according to “NSA: Snowden Stole 1.7 million classified documents and still has access to most of them” by Michael Kelley in Business Insider Dec.13, 2013.

Snowden is charged with three felonies in connection with leaks of classified information about secret U.S. surveillance programs, conveying classified information to an unauthorized party, disclosing communications intelligence information and theft of government property that can carry a penalty up to 10 years for each charge.

Snowden has lived in Russia since June 2013 and has less than a year left on a three-year residency permit. He is free to move around Russia and pay visits to other countries.

After the screening, Snowden appeared via satellite in a panel discussion on screen that included Director Oliver Stone, actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt who played Snowden and Shailene Woodley, who played Snowden’s girlfriend Lindsey Mills.

Snowden was asked how the ordeal has affected Mills and himself.

“What do you say to …? How does any human respond to a scene that shows you as the world’s worst boyfriend?” he said.

“There was the tension and there was a real strain, there was a real cost on the relationship to holding secrets, the things you could not tell each other,” Snowden continued.

Snowden also praised Mills for her strength and bravery during the ordeal.

Another NSA whistleblower at the panel discussion was Thomas Drake. After Drake was introduced to Snowden, Stone said what Drake did was right but it was still wrong.

“Tom taught Ed all the things not to do and not to go through the system,” Stone said.

Drake was a senior executive at the National Security Agency for seven years who took allegations of illegal activities, waste and mismanagement to the media between 2005 and 2006.

Although Drake used encrypted email to communicate with former Baltimore Sun reporter Siobhan Gorman, his leak was discovered. In April 2010, the federal government indicted Drake under the Espionage Act. He was sentenced to one year of probation and 240 hours of community service, according to an article in Smithsonian Magazine, “Leaks and Law: The Thomas Drake Story,” published in August 2011.

Snowden said Drake had said the government could not spy on its citizens.

“There is no law authorizing it. Even if there were, these activities are unconstitutional, meaning you literally you do not have the authority to pass a law without first amending the Constitution because our 4th Amendment prohibits these illegal search and seizures,” Snowden said.


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