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Snowden Appears Via Video Conference At SXSW Panel

Updated: Monday, March 10 2014, 01:54 PM CDT

***There is an audio issue at the beginning of the conference***

Downtown Austin became the locus of international intrigue Monday morning when NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden beamed into a South by Southwest event for a live videoconference.

The former security contractor's virtual appearance rounded out the panel that also included his lawyer, Ben Wizner, and ACLU technologist Chris Soghoian.

Snowden has been living in Moscow where he's found temporary asylum after leaking a trove of documents that exposed the massive scale of the NSA's secret surveillance activities.

Appearing in front of a green screen splashed with the preamble of the Constitution, Snowden discussed the importance of developing better data encryption technology and issued a call to action to the crowd of technorati.

"The NSA … is setting fire to the future of the internet," he said. "The people in this room right now, you guys are the firefighters and we need your help."

He also deflected recent claims made by NSA chief Keith Alexander that his revelations weakened national security. Snowden turned the tables and accused Alexander and his predecessor, Michael Hayden, of both undermining national security by prioritizing aggressive surveillance programs over defensive ones.

"We’ve reached a point where the majority of Americans’ telephone conversations are being recorded," he said. "We've actually had tremendous intelligence failures because instead of monitoring suspects' communications, we're monitoring everyone's."

Snowden also fielded questions from the audience in the room and on Twitter. Tim Berners-Lee, the man who created the World Wide Web, asked Snowden what he would change about the nation's surveillance apparatus.

"We need a watchdog that watches Congress, because if we're not informed, we can't consent to these policies," Snowden replied.

Snowden's appearance at the multi-day festival drew criticism from those who view him as a hostile spy or consider his leaks traitorous. A congressman from Kansas wrote a letter urging festival organizers to pull the plug on the event, something they refused to do.

On Saturday, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange also addressed a crowded auditorium at the Austin Convention Center via an Internet uplink.

 

Snowden Appears Via Video Conference At SXSW Panel


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