Edward Snowden To Appear At New Hampshire Convention: NSA Whistleblower To Be Keynote Speaker Via Video Link

Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower who exposed the government’s bulk phone data collection and other surveillance practices, will be the keynote speaker at a New Hampshire convention of libertarians, The Valley News reports.

Snowden will speak to the New Hampshire Liberty Forum via a video conference from Russia, where he’s been granted political asylum while he faces federal charges here in the United States. The New Hampshire Liberty Forum is an annual conference held in Manchester, New Hampshire (population: 109,000). The 2016 Liberty Forum will take place February 18-21.

The Liberty Forum is sponsored by the Free State Project, a political advocacy group with the stated goal of moving 20,000 libertarians — or, as the Free State Project describes their audience, “liberty lovers” — to New Hampshire. Once there, the “liberty lovers” can affect change through local activism and, if they chose, through voting. The movement is not officially associated with the Libertarian Party; although, the Free State Project is founded on libertarian ideals, such as smaller government and individual rights.

Free State Project president Carla Gericke joked about how her group was able to score Edward Snowden to speak at their convention.

“The standing joke is, ‘I could tell you but I’d have to kill you.'”

In fact, the Free State Project has been courting Snowden for a convention appearance for some time, but hasn’t been able to make it happen until this year. They got help from other privacy activists, including Thomas Drake, another NSA whistleblower.

Edward Snowden became a household name in June 2013, when the self-described “computer wizard,” at the time working for National Surveillance Agency (NSA) subcontractor Booz Hamilton, illegally copied and then released tens of thousands of pages of classified information to journalist Glenn Greenwald, who then released them to the public.

Snowden’s files revealed surveillance systems within both the United States (via the NSA) and Europe (via the British government’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ)) that, among other activities, collected bulk so-called “metadata” on Americans’ telephone communications records, as well as some of their Internet activities. Those data collection programs were carried out without warrants, in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

After releasing his files, Snowden was charged with espionage, theft of government property, and similar charges, He fled the country, eventually allegedly making his way to Moscow, where he was granted asylum and where he remains to this day.

In a December 2013 Washington Post interview, Snowden explained his motivation for releasing the files.

“For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished. 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.”

Snowden has been the subject of intense debate, with various commentators referring to him as a hero, a traitor, or somewhere in between. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper claimed that Snowden’s leaks had done almost immeasurable damage to the United States’ security apparatus.

“For me, it is literally – not figuratively – literally gut-wrenching to see this happen because of the huge, grave damage it does to our intelligence capabilities.”

For people concerned with individual liberty and privacy, such as the Free State Project, Snowden is a hero, as Carla Gericke explains.

“He’s a really insightful and brilliant man, so I think from our perspective we’re really excited to give him a platform.”

Edward Snowden will host a 30-minute presentation and Q & A session at the Liberty Forum convention.

[Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images]