Months after fleeing to Russia after leaking vital NSA documents, Snowden broke his silence just to say “mission accomplished.” Living in Moscow and keeping a low profile during his temporary asylum, Snowden spoke at length for the first time since arriving in June. With this statement Snowden wishes to remind both his supporters and detractors that “I didn’t want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself.” This statement comes at a time when the repercussions of the initial document leaks are still being felt, prompting discussion of whether Snowden is a hero or a traitor, but there can be no debate that change has begun.
Many say that with the process of changing the issues brought to light by Snowdens leaks barely begun he is hardly in a position to say he has accomplished any mission. But although the task of shutting some NSA eyes will take years, after a few months of silence Snowden says that his top priority was simply to open the public eye to how invasive the surveillance had really become. “As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated.” With the story out and circulating around the world there is no way for a cover-up or string of denials to happen and change is inevitable. Snowden says he has only recently been able to breathe a sigh of relief now that he sees his views of intrusive government surveillance are shared, but he has only recently began to feel take on his “mission accomplished” attitude.
Not knowing what would happen if he did, but afraid of what would happen if he did nothing, Snowden leaked files to three reporters late this spring. Barton Gellman of The National Post, Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian and American documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras have since become his conduits and confidants after publishing the leaked files and working to ensure the story was heard world wide. Although Snowden broke his silence just to say “Mission Accomplished” Barton Gellman was there for nearly 14 hours afterward to conduct interviews with Snowden and get a more intimate understanding of his goals and his feelings about the future. “I am not trying to bring down the NSA, I am working to improve the NSA,” he insists, saying that he only wishes to show that noble intentions do not excuse vicious means. With the true scope of American information gathering happening within its own borders and abroad laid before the people, the backlash was immense, forcing the NSA to make public thousands of documents it had tried to keep secret for years. With connections to the security associations of nearly every western nation from Canada to France to Sweden, international critics had no sympathy for the sudden hot water the NSA had found itself in.
Snowden broke his silence just to say “Mission Accomplished” and not to gloat or brag, only to remind people that the work turns towards making change happen. “Together we can find a better balance, end mass surveillance and remind the government that if it really wants to know how we feel, asking is always cheaper than spying.” This reminder points out that although it is clear changes need to be made, it is up to the individual citizen to stand up and demand their privacy.
By Daniel O’Brien