nettime-l on Wed, 18 Dec 2013 11:04:04 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> "I would rather be without a state than without a voice." Snowden's open letter to the people of Brazil

Six months ago, I stepped out from the shadows of the United States
Government's National Security Agency to stand in front of a
journalist's camera.

I shared with the world evidence proving some governments are building
a world-wide surveillance system to secretly track how we live, who we
talk to, and what we say.

I went in front of that camera with open eyes, knowing that the
decision would cost me family and my home, and would risk my life. I
was motivated by a belief that the citizens of the world deserve to
understand the system in which they live.

My greatest fear was that no one would listen to my warning. Never
have I been so glad to have been so wrong. The reaction in certain
countries has been particularly inspiring to me, and Brazil is
certainly one of those.

At the NSA, I witnessed with growing alarm the surveillance of whole
populations without any suspicion of wrongdoing, and it threatens to
become the greatest human rights challenge of our time.

The NSA and other spying agencies tell us that for our own "safety"
--for Dilma's "safety," for Petrobras' "safety"-- they have revoked
our right to privacy and broken into our lives. And they did it
without asking the public in any country, even their own.

Today, if you carry a cell phone in Sao Paolo, the NSA can and does
keep track of your location: they do this 5 billion times a day to
people around the world.

When someone in Florianopolis visits a website, the NSA keeps a record
of when it happened and what you did there. If a mother in Porto
Alegre calls her son to wish him luck on his university exam, NSA can
keep that call log for five years or more.

They even keep track of who is having an affair or looking at
pornography, in case they need to damage their target's reputation.

American Senators tell us that Brazil should not worry, because this
is not "surveillance," it's "data collection." They say it is done to
keep you safe. They're wrong.

There is a huge difference between legal programs, legitimate spying,
legitimate law enforcement --where individuals are targeted based on a
reasonable, individualized suspicion - and these programs of dragnet
mass surveillance that put entire populations under an all-seeing eye
and save copies forever.

These programs were never about terrorism: they're about economic
spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They're about

Many Brazilian senators agree, and have asked for my assistance with
their investigations of suspected crimes against Brazilian citizens.

I have expressed my willingness to assist wherever appropriate and
lawful, but unfortunately the United States government has worked very
hard to limit my ability to do so --going so far as to force down the
Presidential Plane of Evo Morales to prevent me from traveling to
Latin America!

Until a country grants permanent political asylum, the US government
will continue to interfere with my ability to speak.

Six months ago, I revealed that the NSA wanted to listen to the whole
world. Now, the whole world is listening back, and speaking out, too.
And the NSA doesn't like what it's hearing.

The culture of indiscriminate worldwide surveillance, exposed to
public debates and real investigations on every continent, is

Only three weeks ago, Brazil led the United Nations Human Rights
Committee to recognize for the first time in history that privacy
does not stop where the digital network starts, and that the mass
surveillance of innocents is a violation of human rights.

The tide has turned, and we can finally see a future where we can
enjoy security without sacrificing our privacy. Our rights cannot be
limited by a secret organization, and American officials should never
decide the freedoms of Brazilian citizens.

Even the defenders of mass surveillance, those who may not be
persuaded that our surveillance technologies have dangerously outpaced
democratic controls, now agree that in democracies, surveillance of
the public must be debated by the public.

My act of conscience began with a statement: "I don't want to live in
a world where everything that I say, everything I do, everyone I talk
to, every expression of creativity or love or friendship is recorded.

That's not something I'm willing to support, it's not something I'm
willing to build, and it's not something I'm willing to live under."

Days later, I was told my government had made me stateless and wanted
to imprison me. The price for my speech was my passport, but I would
pay it again: I will not be the one to ignore criminality for the sake
of political comfort. I would rather be without a state than without a

If Brazil hears only one thing from me, let it be this: when all of us
band together against injustices and in defense of privacy and basic
human rights, we can defend ourselves from even the most powerful

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