WATCH: Snowden Participates in SXSW Panel, Says the NSA Has Set 'Fire' to the Internet

The man who exposed mass surveillance spoke via video in his first public live appearance since fleeing the U.S.

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in Hong Kong.
Photo Credit: Laura Poitras / Praxis Films

In his first live public appearance since fleeing the U.S. after leaking thousands of secret intelligence documents, Edward Snowden warned that the National Security Agency (NSA) is ruining the Internet.  

Snowden, who obtained asylum in Russia after helping to expose the NSA’s dragnet surveillance of millions of Americans, was speaking at the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Texas on a panel about how NSA spying impacts the tech community.  He spoke via livestream, with an image of the Constitution as his background.

U.S. government surveillance is “setting fire to the future of the internet,” he told the crowd, adding that “you guys in the room are the global firefighters.”  He was referring to ways to combat mass surveillance, like using encryption and TOR, a way to browse the Internet anonymously.  Also speaking on his panel was the American Civil Liberties Union’s Ben Wizner and Christopher Soghoian.

Snowden also criticized Congress for shirking its duty to oversee the NSA.  And he blasted the heads of the NSA.  “More than anything, there are two officials who have harmed our Internet security and national security. Those two officials are Michael Hayden and Keith Alexander”--respectively, the former and current heads of the agency.

Watch Snowden's address here:

Alex Kane is former World editor at AlterNet. His work has appeared in Mondoweiss, Salon, VICE, the Los Angeles Review of Books and more. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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