Unsurprisingly, Edward Snowden chose to submit a statement on paper, rather than appear by weblink at yesterday’s hearing of the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. But appear he did – an exile has apparently not compromise his decision to blow the whistle.
In a three-minute reading, Jesselyn Radack, National Security & Human Rights Director of the Government Accountability Project read the statement in full, and Snowden kicked off by calling the mass surveillance of whole populations “the greatest human rights challenge of our time”.
We’ve transcribed Snowden’s speech in full:
I thank the European parliament and the LIBE committee for taking up the challenge of mass surveillance. The surveillance of whole populations rather than individuals threatens to be the greatest human rights challenge of our time.
The success of economies in developed nations relies increasingly on their creative output, and if that success is to continue we must remember that creativity is the product of curiosity, which in turn is the product of privacy.
A culture of secrecy has denied our societies the opportunity to determine the appropriate balance between the human right of privacy and the governmental interest in investigation. These are not decisions that should be made for a people but only by the peopler after full, informed and fearless debate.
Yet public debate is not possible without public knowledge – and in my country the cost of one in my position of returning public knowledge to public hands has been persecution and exile. If we are to enjoy such debates in the future we cannot rely upon individual sacrifice. We must create better channels for people of conscience to inform not only trusted agents of government but independent representatives of the public outside government. When I began my work it was with the sole intention of making possible the debate we see occurring here in this body and in many other bodies around the world.
Today we see legislative bodies forming new committees calling for investigations and proposing new solutions for modern problems. We see emboldened courts that are no longer afraid to consider critical questions of national security. We see brave executives remembering that if a public is prevented from knowing how they are being governed the necessary result is that they are no longer self governing. And we see the public reclaiming an equal seat at the table of government.
The work of a generation is beginning here with your hearing, and you have the full measure of my gratitude and support.