Edward Snowden’s best quotes about surveillance and free expression in Canada

Monday, March 16, 2015
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On March 4, CJFE held a live Q&A with Edward Snowden to coincide with the launch of the Snowden Archive, the first fully searchable database of all leaked Snowden documents published to date.

Moderated by Anna Maria Tremonti, Host of CBC Radio’s The Current and CJFE Board member, Snowden answered questions about the state of mass surveillance in Canada, including the government’s proposed Anti-Terrorism Act, Bill C-51. Although the entire conversation is definitely worth watching, there were a few key quotes from Snowden that really stood out to us here at CJFE.

  1. “Terrorism kills fewer people than lighting strikes and bathroom falls. Terrorism is an extraordinarily rare natural disaster.” Snowden warned against throwing away all of our rights and freedoms by enacting broad-scope surveillance and anti-terrorism laws out of fear of rare criminal offences. He urges governments to advocate for the values that we hold instead of “debasing ourselves because there are bad people out there.”
  2. “Bill C-51 is sort of an emulation of the American Patriot Act.” Snowden pointed out that governments have never before had this power to pre-emptively and intrusively investigate every member of society – and that there are serious concerns for doing so. These sorts of blanket surveillance laws fundamentally change the citizens’ freedoms.
  3. “Canadian intelligence has one of the weakest oversight frameworks out of any Western intelligence agency in the world.” Without any real transparency or oversight, there are already serious concerns about Canadian surveillance practices. New legislation such as Bill C-51 will further expand the powers of these intelligence agencies without providing any additional oversight mechanisms. These issues are a matter of extreme public interest; former prime ministers and the former head of SIRC (the existing oversight body) have come out saying this legislation is highly flawed. Despite this, oppositional testimonies are being blocked to try to pass the bill as quickly as possible.
  4. “The [surveillance] programs had never in even a single case stopped a terrorist attack.” With mass collection of everything on everybody, you lose the ability to make the connections and understand anything – effectively drowning in data. In reference to the January attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine, Snowden pointed out that France already had extreme mass surveillance programs in place, and had received numerous tips about the individuals involved. Yet even with this intelligence, authorities did not stop the attack from happening.
  5. “We’re creating a kind of herd immunity that helps protect everybody everywhere.” Snowden highlighted the importance of using encrypted communications, even if you don’t think you’re doing anything that needs to be protected. With widespread adoption of these technologies, the people who really do need to use encrypted communications, such as the journalists who are persecuted abroad for fair reporting of controversial topics, are better protected, less easy to identify, and less stigmatized.
  6. “You need to ensure your communications are protected in transit.” Snowden recommends using end-to-end encryption apps and programs to prevent the content of your communications from being stored by third parties who can provide that information to the government. His top recommendations:
  7. “[The Snowden Archive] is great work and I think it’s incredible that somebody’s done this and made it publicly available.” A great resource for those looking to learn more about what surveillance practices are already in place, don’t forget to check out the Snowden Archive for access to every document leaked by Edward Snowden that has been published to date, in one fully searchable and indexed spot! Start searching now.


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