Last Night’s Scary Edward Snowden Interview Should Be Required Viewing

Late last night, much of America was buzzing over Edward Snowden and his hour-long interview with Brian Williams — of NBC News— and for good reason: it was freaking terrifying.

For the past year, our only glimpses of Edward Snowden have come through global news sources such as RT and The Guardian, with whom the former National Security Agency contractor had a working relationship in relation to his intricately planned plot to leak information about wide-scale spying on American citizens without warrant or oversight.

Brian Williams’ Snowden interview was the first real America-centric cohesive look we got into the information the 30-year-old fugitive worked so desperately to get into our hands, and it’s well worth the hour out of your day to watch it in full. The revelations were legion and the many salient points invaluable — but what was most interesting was the social media reaction to Snowden’s comments.

Overwhelmingly, the young security expert was viewed as a patriot and a hero… and it seems his request to come home on less adversarial terms might indeed garner bipartisan support among constituents.

Any American even remotely sympathetic to Snowden likely felt quite moved by his palpable desire to return home to the United States, and when Williams asked what he missed most about our great nation, Snowden indicated that it would be easier to list what he didn’t miss.

Having introduced himself as “Ed,” Snowden succeeded as well on one particular score — telegraphing his love for his country and his stated and seemingly genuine motivation… his fellow Americans.

While one might think Snowden’s actions were out of anger at the US, when he spoke with Brian Williams, it seemed difficult to believe his critics couldn’t be more wrong. Snowden is angry for the US.

Of the very frightening aspects of his admissions, one in particular stood out to me. In one portion (paraphrasing here), Williams asked a question, to which Snowden set up a hypothetical.

In that example scenario, he used a person that was either a “terrorist” or a “drug dealer.” It may be a statement of no import, but if he meant what he said and I heard, NSA spying does not simply seek to catch “terrorists,” and it may also be used in the course of criminal investigations. It would be interesting to see if this portion pinged the radar of civil libertarians and constitutional law buffs, and whether anyone else was alarmed severely by the suggestion due to a small thing we used to have in this country called “due process.”

Another frightening segment dealt with smartphones, and how metadata is collected on each and every American. Snowden did a bang up job of dispelling the myth that if you’ve done nothing wrong you have nothing to fear — however, it’s not fully clear whether most viewers grasped the gravity and true threat of what Snowden was begging us to hear.

A team of experts (who seemed far less so as they followed the incredibly articulate Snowden in a web chat after the interview) sliced and diced the phone spying portion of the interview, in which Snowden said perhaps the most important thing of all his remarks:

“Do you check [your phone] when you travel, do you check it when you’re just at home? They’d be able to tell something called your ‘pattern of life.’ When are you doing these kind of activities? When do you wake up? When do you go to sleep? What other phones are around you when you wake up and go to sleep? Are you with someone who’s not your wife? Are you doing something, are you someplace you shouldn’t be, according to the government, which is arbitrary, you know — are you engaged in any kind of activities that we disapprove of, even if they aren’t technically illegal?”

Or simply harmful? Do you often eat at Cracker Barrel, buy cigarettes, or convene with gun collectors? Anyone could fall under suspicion, Snowden suggests as he continues:

“And all of these things can raise your level of scrutiny, even if it seems entirely innocent to you. Even if you have nothing to hide. Even if you’re doing nothing wrong. These activities can be misconstrued, misinterpreted, and used to harm you as an individual, even without the government having any intent to do you wrong. The problem is that the capabilities themselves are unregulated, uncontrolled, and dangerous.”

The Edward Snowden interview, its post-airing analysis, and other supplemental reporting is available over at NBC News.