Bård Vegar Solhjells dialogue with Edward Snowden

This is a complete transcript of the video conversation.

Bård Vegar Solhjell (BV): So as you know by now I have been trying to contact you for quite some time…

Edward Snowden (ES): Yes, I know. I am so sorry. It has been very difficult to handle communication. For someone in my position, being watched, being tracked, there are a lot of things that one has to do to manage to keep one’s physical location protected, and at the same time being able to interact with the global community and being able to communicate. That is very difficult in the technical sense. It also causes you to stop and think about, not only how can I tackle this to fix my immediate problems, to have these calls, work, discuss a certain issue in a certain form or event. But how can we apply these lessons to help other people? I have quite a lot of technical knowledge but there are so many journalists and activists and even people in government, who do not have these capabilities and therefore they are left out of the conversation entirely because they cannot find secure methods of communications. Or they do participate, but at their own risk which can be very dangerous. That’s my long way of saying I am so sorry that I have been so difficult to get a hold of.

BV: If there is one think I totally understand after reading about your story, interviews with you and other sources, it is that you are careful with security and how you communicate with people. And let me also say, on a more personal note, that the personal sacrifice you have made is immense. I did not know this when I started reading about you as a person and what you had been able to convey to world. I just have to say that I admire you for that. I don’t think many of us would be able or willing to do what you have done. That must have been really tough.

ES: Thank you. It was a challenge. In my position I felt like I had witnessed something that was tremendously wrong and there were many other people around me who had the same feeling. I discussed this with my colleagues, co-workers and my supervisors, complained about this and said: “Is this really right? Is this what we should be doing?” Other people also brought the same concerns to me. So it was common knowledge within the NSA that we had crossed the line. We had gone too far. But everybody knew that there was no strong whistle blower protection at the time. There was no way to bring it to the higher levels and get it changed, without ending up in jail. So everybody around me, many were young parents and like everybody else they had things that they cared about, that they could not justify leaving. I had the same struggle. I was with my partner of almost 10 years. I loved her very much. We were really successful. We had our own home in Hawaii. The lifestyle was very fulfilling and I was making a lot of money for someone who did not have very many official qualifications.

But it got to the point where I had to think about the fact that if I didn’t do this, who would? And if I don’t do this now, what happens next? Because what we have seen the last year/ year and a half is not merely that these systems exist. But they have caused a lot of harm to basically the boundary of our rights, what we consider our national liberties, and the normal relationship we have between our governments and us, the citizens that are being governed. These programs appeared without any public debate. They appeared without vote in the people’s parliaments and congresses around the world. The question to me became, that if I sit on this and do not say anything about it now and just wait for someone else to do it — which is what I was really hoping for, nobody really wants to stand up and put themselves on the spot - what will happen? What if no one does and we wait another 3/ 5/ 10 years and these programs become more solidified? And ultimately it became to me a question, not about surveillance - which was my initial main concern, the abuse that I witnessed - but more importantly it was a change in the relationship between the governing and the governed. It really was about the structure of our society changing, the structure of our freedoms changing. And ultimately, if I did not do that, it would not only alter the world that I would live in, but the world the people I loved lived in, the partner of mine of 10 years and my family. And I do not want them to live in a world where these things take place.

I realized that I could change this. I could say something about it, but I was also thinking that it was going to cost me too much, so this was something that someone else would have to do. Obviously, yes it has had costs, but it has also brought me a deep sense of satisfaction. My family is proud of me. I have been able to keep all of the relationships I had, I do not feel like I have lost any. So it has actually been liberating to put myself out there. To be attacked by my government, but supported by my people. Because when I actually took the step out there I feared that I would be totally vilified, which we saw happen previously, particularly in government circles, even in Europe. The accusations came: I am a traitor. I work for the Chinese. Then I left China and they said: well he works for the Russians, not the Chinese. But it is really incredible to see that people are starting to look a little more critically, a little more deeply, at these issues. Not just about surveillance and how we are being watched, but about how we are being ruled. The question is: do we want leaders who represent us, or do we want rulers, who make decisions for us in our name, but without our participation, our knowledge or consent? I have made my decision about that.

BV: It is almost moving to hear you say that, and it reminds me of the many great human right activists I have met throughout the years. All of them had been in a situation where they knew something was wrong and had a deep sense that they should do something about it. Most times a lot of people shared that sense, but only a few have that extra courage to make the sacrifice themselves. It is impressive and inspiring to hear that you were actually able to take that step. And as you probably already know I, together with a colleague, nominated you to the Nobel Peace Prize.

ES: I never expected anything like that. It came as a tremendous surprise and it is a tremendous honor. I have to say that we both probably recognize that it is somewhat unlikely that the Nobel committee would back something like that but..

BV: You are not the odds favorite I can tell you that.

ES: Right. But I am honored that anybody would consider nominating me, particularly someone like you who represents so many people. Because again, it is not about me, it is about us, and the values that we represent. It is about the principles of how we want to live. So, all I can say is thank you.

BV: That was also why I wanted to say a few words about why we nominated you. It is not about you. It is about what you represent, for us as well. It is in the testament of Alfred Nobel that one of the reasons to be nominated is that you have done a lot to reduce the worlds standing armies. Now, I do not know if you have done a lot for that. But it is also in the testament that someone who has contributed significantly to create brotherhood between nations should be awarded. My firm belief is that a brotherhood between nations starts with trust, trust between the nations, the peoples of the nations and the people and their governments. In our view you have contributed to the first global debate on surveillance ever. When there is actually that kind of surveillance going on in the world, as you have been able to show us, not just in the US, but in other countries as well, it is essential that people get to know about it because that is the only way that we can do something about it. Establish or reestablish the trust between the leaders. It is also necessary for other governments to know what the US has actually been doing to ordinary citizens and leaders of other countries. So that was actually the main reason why we nominated you. And I should also add something we did not put in the nomination because it is a bit to the side. But I think you have contributed to a totally new kind of political alliance that we see in Norway and in the US and other countries. If you look at Norway you still have the people who think you are a traitor and that if you come to accept the prize you should be arrested and put in prison. But there is an alliance now between the left and the right. Between old conservative lawyers and young internet-using activists, which is a very rare and new kind of alliance. And that is perhaps one of the more interesting things that you have contributed to.

ES: That is something that I have spent a lot of time thinking about and the way that we describe the traditional political spectrum in the United States is between the liberal and conservative, but what we are beginning to see now is what we call the vertical axis between authoritarian types of government and libertarian types of government. I don’t mean specific parties; no one would say, “Hey, I am a member of the authoritarian party”. But it is true. There is a divide between those that think that the government should have the power to do anything it wants, as long as it has been voted for or is subject to some kind of process or legislative control. And others that believe that there are some limits to what governments can do, even if it is voted for, when it comes to the impact it has on civil rights or human rights. People who are strongly authoritarian believe that the government can legislate anything; it should be able to go to war with anyone and they should be able to legalize things that would have tremendous human rights impact, even things like slavery. Now, I do not say that this literarily represents someone’s position but it illustrates that there are no limits to the policies of governments that could be legalized. And as you say, what this new left-right alliance represents is people who mean that there are some limits to what can be justified in the name of government. You can not spy on everyone in the world all the time and collect permanent records of all of our activities and all of our friends, people we love, the books we read, the places we go, prior to any kinds of suspicion of wrong doing, simply because you can or because a single investigator found it interesting. That is simply too much power, too dangerous and concentrated in too few hands.

But there is one other thing that you brought up that I wanted to speak briefly about. You mentioned the reduction in standing armies. We may not be talking about people standing on borders with rifles. But when we think about military spending, I think actually this issue is very important because it is the beginning of a new arms race. And if we do not get in front of this, if we do not set new international standards for behavior, when it comes to mass surveillance, the consequences will be severe. This is not an issue that is limited to the United States or the European Union - it is everywhere. It is China, Russia, Latin America, Africa, South East Asia, East Asia, Central Asia. And all of these countries are funding the same kinds of programs. You have to know that I was involved in active surveillance on governments so I saw their plans as well. It was not merely about the United States. It was about the trend. It was about what was happening worldwide. So by getting in front of this we can reduce the amount of spending that goes into these programs. Because when you think about what are the contributors and guarantors of world peace, between nations and brothers? We have cooperation, sharing of resources and fundamental trust. And mass surveillance programs degrade and diminish all three of those bonds. If we cannot trust each other at the negotiating table not to spy on each other (talking points and what not) – where have we come? The US was spying in such environments, even climate change conferences, because they wanted an advantage that would allow them to get a lead on their interest, even if that was in detriment to the other partner nations, allied nations. We have to get away from that. We need to reestablish trust, not only between our governments, but between out publics. And when we think about resourcing and how money is spent. We live in a world with limited resources and ultimately we have chosen policies - well actually we the people have not chosen policies, our representative and governments behind closed doors - they have increasingly chosen politics that invest resources into programs like mass surveillance, new weaponry, drones, and that encourages other people to do this. And what we get is increased spending on things that do not improve our lives and that do not necessarily improve our security. When you start preforming more


When we think about it, these limited resources are not invested into schools, health, and poverty. We are ending lives (ref. to drone-wars?) instead of improving them. As long as it is happening behind a wall of secrecy and the officials that make these decisions are not held accountable by either law or election - because the people do not know what is happening - the people are losing control, not only of our officials but the direction of our governments more broadly. I think this is a fundamentally dangerous thing.


BV: Sorry we lost you for a moment there. Now it seems to be up and running again. I think that was a really important point you made. Both that surveillance is part of an arms race and how this drives costs and spending to military purposes. But also if work to reduce conflict would have any meaning it has to follow what is actually happening within the military. In this context the increasing use of drones is an important issue as you mention yourself. I am hosting a seminar here in Norway in two weeks with a former drone pilot from the US. On another note, I think you should know that even though we laughed when we talked about you not being a top favorite for the Peace Prize, I have to inform you that one of the most senior academic in Norway (the director of the Norwegian Peace Research Institute, PRIO) he actually has you on his outsider list for receiving the prize. So, well – you never know. Still, more important is the fact that your disclosures have raised a lot of debate in Norway. The day we nominated you we probably had a hundred international journalists contacting us – because they wanted to know what this had to with peace. Despite the confusion among some, I think it is perfectly fair to nominate you. I think it is a good nomination, even though you´re not the favorite. Now, I will not use much of your time, but there is one issue I would really like to ask you about. From my point of view it is clear that in the US this has become a huge debate and you have actually made a real difference. In Europe, on the other hand, it started out with a lot of anger towards the American polity and the American government, not least their surveillance of both citizens and leaders here. But it seems that in many European countries now things have eased of. Several government have become more interested in having a closer cooperation with the US government on surveillance, rather than keeping up their criticism. What I would very mich like to hear you reflect upon was how, in a small European country like Norway, we can work to actually affect and help limit the modern mass surveillance that you have brought to our attention. Have you got ideas or experiences from other European countries? I mean, is there a specific element within our law making that we should look at? For example Norway has several agreements with the US on intelligence deliveries and so on - are there things there that should be addressed? It would be very interesting to hear some of the experiences you have and whether you have ideas you have for us to develop here.

ES: Right. So one of the biggest challenges here to remember - and this is novel for a lot of politicians, because they typically do not work on intelligence and security issues - is that the politicians who make these decisions on intelligence issues are typically not elected. Often times they are not even appointed. In the United States we refer to them as “deep state” officials. They survive in government beyond administrations, beyond changes in governments because of their career track. So they have much less accountability and much greater knowledge of bureaucratic maneuvering, because they stay in the place for 30 years, instead of three, five or ten. So you have to be aware that these officials, who are not political, who are not appointed, when they see these things they are typically not swayed by political moods. And so when they see the revelations of last year, the first thing they think is not how do we stop this, but how do we do the same thing. How do we benefit from these capabilities? Because they see it as an opportunity for increased budget, for increased manpower, increased control and ultimately, increased influence, because they can provide more value to the officials who fund their agencies. So it is key to understand that regardless of what they say in public, they are going to have very different calculations as to what this means and what they should do.

But as far as how to fix this, there are two things. There is the political track and there is the technical track. Politically, the most important thing in Europe was that parts of the media and certain politicians didn’t really understand the importance of metadata. They tried to make it a conversation about metadata vs. content, which is not true. Because in fact the NSA intercepts both content and metadata, particularly on foreign people, like in Norway. You know, if I wanted to read the prime minister’s e-mail or any minister’s account, and I am sitting in Hawaii, I could do that simply by typing in his public e-mail address and pulling up the result. The metadata discussion was domestic to the United States.

But more importantly, what we failed in some way to educate people in Europe about was that metadata is more direct and more intrusive than content in most regards. The former director of the NSA, and also former director of the CIA in the United States, said: “We kill people based on metadata”. And it is true. When the US is hunting down someone they consider a true political radical, who is radicalizing people towards violence or however they want to justify it, or an active combatant, they are not listening to the actual content - what he says on the phone - to locate where he is at the point of a strike. What they are listening to, because they may not have access to content, are simply the metadata that indicates: his cellphone is turned on, it’s in this location. But critically, because we are lacking that content piece and that we are not paying much attention to it, or because these processes are increasingly becoming automated, we know that his cell phone is there. But we don’t know that it is him that is using it. And for that reason we have ended up striking people who are not intended targets. We have targeted children who are using their parents’ cellphones, we have struck wedding parties, we have done all these terrible things. And of course this has not been fully revealed, because it happens under a wall of classification. But because metadata talks about devices, which we then associate with people, it is your iPhone, not the person that we are tracking.

But more importantly, metadata reveals the same things as hiring a private eye, a private detective to follow you around. They might not sit close enough in the café to hear everything they are saying, but they will see who they are meeting with, who they are talking to, what the ordered at the café, the time they arrived, the time the leave, who they left with, where they went, where they work, what books they check out at the library. What we need to think about is the fact that that this is occurring without a private eye being assigned. Without a real person being assigned. This happens algorithmically, by a machine-based analysis. So in effect what we are seeing are governments all around that are increasingly developing systems that in effect are assigning a private detective to everyone in the country, and by doing so are creating permanent records of our behavior. It is vital to see that this is occurring without the investment of resources and the kind of public awareness that we would expect for a program of that scale.

The public needs to understand that by not opposing these programs and not resisting these programs, but saying that they are alright, it is not a question of having nothing to hide, as many people say: I have nothing to hide, so I have nothing to fear. It is the fact that by saying: “Do you have something to hide?” you are inverting the question of responsibility. You as a person, a private citizen, do not need to justify your rights. The government has an obligation to justify their intrusion into your rights. You as a private citizen do not have to give a reason for going to the bookstore, or attending a political rally. The government has to justify its interception of your activity. It has to justify its intrusion into your private life and to this point they have not done so – and I think that really is the key. We need to explain that this is not an issue of privacy. This is an issue of liberty. The regular citizen needs to understand that what this is about, on global terms, is about how much resources we are willing to invest into government officials who are not accountable to voters, and whose activities are not publicly known, and who - even when these scandalous programs are occurring and they are authorizing them - they are not held accountable for them, even when they break the law.

For example in the United States the most senior intelligence official, a man named James Clapper, the director of the National Intelligence, was found to have given a false statement to congress, which is a felony. But when this happened he basically justified it by saying: “Well, if I had said this publicly then people would have known what we were doing”. So they did not prosecute him, they did not even investigate. That is the challenge. We have to get away from the place where we say that: “These programs are so important to our spies. Their ability to watch all of us, all the time is so important that when they break the law they answer to a different set of standards then a private citizen would.” We cannot allow our society to place a certain type of official above the laws that everyone answers to. When that happens, how do we change it if they go to far? How do we change it when they begin to intentionally violating our rights for personal or political gain? If we set the precedent that the people in charge of military intelligence agencies or civilian intelligence agencies or even purely in defensive agencies in Norway should not be punished when they break the law, as long as they break the law for the right purpose, we are down the wrong track. That is something that we really need to watch out for.

Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that when people say that “I have nothing to hide,” what they are saying is that “my rights do not matter.” And more importantly, say that they do not have anything to hide, what about their neighbor, sister, mother or a youth that is suffering from some sort of deeply personal private condition or personal situation that they do not want to be known, or that ultimately could put them in risk in the future based on their religious belief, sexual preference? What if the government collects these details about our private lives for five, ten, fifteen years, and then the government changes? There is a new election and now we get a highly authoritarian government that believes there are no limits on how this data can be used. They can then use it for their own intention of changing social direction, of the cohesion of society, the way integration works or the way policing works. What if they decide that not just intelligence agencies have access to this, but also local investigators, local political officials? Once the data has been collected it is very difficult to control the manner in which it is used. Particularly when the data is held and used in secret. For this reason we cannot say, I have nothing to hide because what you are saying there is that I have nothing to lose. And when you live in a free and liberal society you have a tremendous amount to lose. Think about the worst surveillance societies on earth and think about if those are the kind of societies you want to live in. And think about the fact that the only thing separating those societies and ours are the restrictions placed on governments that are a product of our rights. And those can be rights either granted nationally, through constitutions, or our human rights. But that is my position on that.

BV: It is almost scary to hear because I think one of the reasons also why the things you brought up has caused so much debate is because it is almost Orwellian. You could not believe it, it was and is still mind-blowing. And I think the reach of the surveillance into Europe has not really come through in the debate here. I think it was the PRISM program, that actually allowed the NSA collect and keep data without legal order if you were not an American citizen. So for all foreign citizens, from an American perspective, the data could be kept and used for any kind of purpose. My view is that this has not really come through in the European debate – how far reaching this was.

ES: Right. I think the US tech industry is doing a better job resisting these kinds of invasive programs now. PRISM operates under US legal authority called FAA 702, or the FISA Amendment Act. I would not expect the average European citizen to be aware of these particular legal statutes in the United States. But that is not the main issue. What is important is that this part of this law radically changed the boundaries of surveillance authorities in the United States. What this means is that the collection of communication connections that have one end in the United States and one end outside of the United States answer to a new legal standard which is that you no longer need a judge saying you have the authority to read this person’s communications and you no longer have this individualized justification coming from any kind of legal official. The attorney general of the United States instead signs classified authorizations that say you can collect any kind of communication from any individual person overseas that is based on classes of behavior as opposed to a specific awareness of wrong doing. So that is really the challenge there…


ES continues: I want to look at this person’s e-mail, based on their own authority, based on their understanding of these behavior classes. And they say, this type of behavior, attending this sort of political rally, making this post on Facebook, making this comment online or even being friends with this person makes me think that you might be a terrorist. We have been intercepting and collecting your communications to begin with and I will now begin reading those communications, analyzing and reporting those communications throughout government and even to foreign governments, which can get people killed or imprisoned. Especially since this is all happening in secret I think it is very dangerous.

But beyond that we see that even though US technology companies have tried to push back, the US government has said no – you are not able to push back. There is current case going on where I believe in the United States where Microsoft has a data center in Ireland, far outside the borders of the United States, that’s holding some foreign citizen’s communications that the US government very much like to read. So Microsoft said, well we would be happy to provide this to you, you simply have to request a warrant from an Irish judge and we will answer to that. The US government said: “No. We will give you a warrant from a US judge and it does not matter what country this information is held in, it not matter the color of the passport, or where this person lives, what they do or what their citizenship is. You are going to answer to us or you will face some consequences”. I think again that this is a very maximalist interpretation of how far an individual nation´s legal reach should extend to, when we think about international community and international law. So that is something that we very much need to keep an eye on and I think that people need to draw more attention to. Because if Microsoft loses that case, they set the standard that the Chinese government can then tell a Norwegian provider that they need to be able to read even Norwegian politician’s e-mails. And they will have no ability to resist because the precedent has been set internationally that it does not matter if the information is held in Norway or if it only contains information on Norwegian citizens. Any sort of foreign jurisdiction can say that we are going to read that and you are going to provide it or we are going to punish your employees, your company or your business in our country for failing to comply to our domestic laws, even though it is happening internationally.

And there was one last thing. You talked previously about how we could fix this. I talked about the political route. There is also the technical route. Mass surveillance does not work when communications are encrypted end to end. Being encrypted means that you cannot read the content directly. Instead of your name in an e-mail it is a long string of characters that does not mean anything unless you have the basically the password, the secret key, that unlocks it and translates it into your real name. But there is also still that metadata which is not encrypted. So to correct that you also need what are called “mixed routing protocol/standards”. This means that service providers (big telecommunication providers in Norway, prominent internet companies, international companies like Youtube, Google, Facebook, Apple) work together to implement a shared infrastructure for the world, for private citizens –where they are not providing internet access, but a gateway into a protected network. The companies have no way of accessing and see what’s going on in the network, but all of these dangerous adversaries do not either. Because you enter the global network through your internet service provider that then goes to Google, but even though you are trying to access Facebook, the signal is sent to Youtube, and then gets bounced through Apple, before it arrives at Facebook. When this happens at the scale of millions and millions people at the same time, it is no longer possible to track it on a cost-effective basis.

So it is not a question of scientifically/ academically do we have to make it fundamentally impossible? We have to make it impossible on a cost-effective basis. We need to take these threats seriously, so that mass surveillance represents something so expensive that it can’t be done by each and every government or agency around the word that wants to do it. At the same time, by doing it in this way we make sure that legitimate targeting of bad actors online, such as identifying child pornographers or terrorists or people who are causing harm, hackers etc --anybody who a judge will look at and say “yes, you have probable cause to place surveillance on this individual” -- they can still do so. And the way they can still do so is because of the way computers work. I, as an NSA analyst, sitting in Hawaii, can go, all right I can’t see everything this person is doing online by watching what everybody is doing online at the same time through mass surveillance. But I can do it by targeting his computer directly. By targeting his iPhone, by targeting his computer at work. And by basically hacking these systems with the authorization by a judge with some kind of judicial processing for approval.

And that is what we do not have today. But I think we will have this 10 years down the road, 20 years down the road. Because when you think about it in terms of rights, when you think about it in terms of how do we balance the requirements of our national defense and of criminal investigation, with the boundaries of our rights. It is the balance that works. We make sure that their work is not impacted, that they can still do what is necessary to protect national interest. At the same time we can do that without sacrificing the rights that our ancestors gave their lives for. And we can preserve free societies at the same time as we provide secure communities. I think that is not out of reach.

And technically, I spend a lot of time working with academics, with cryptographers, with thinkers nowadays about how do we solve this issue if politicians cant be moved. And I think the dangers if politicians do not act to try and fund and implement these policies to make sure that we can have both our freedoms and our liberties we will have brilliant cryptologist, some guy in Belgium or some researcher in Stanford who creates technical systems that lock governments around the world out of all of our communications but not in a way that preserves some activity for criminal investigators, some activity for national security agencies. And so the danger here is that if politicians don’t act and they leave it solely to the realm of technologists to resolve, we will end up in a situation where law enforcement agencies go dark entirely and even bad communications can’t be monitored. So I think it is very important for politicians to understand why this matters, but right now they have not done a good job I think of understanding and communicating these arguments. And so we may not get action on this the next year, but if we do not get it in the next five years I say we will be looking at a very radically different means of communications around the world. And that is going to be tremendously beneficial, but it is also going to be tremendously disruptive if we do not try to get ahead of the issue.

BV: I think I understand, well I do not understand all the technical things you are saying but I totally understand that that is a very dangerous track. Because not only will it create problems for all the good reasons that one has for searching through some peoples e-mails or communications, but you can also imagine that a lot of ordinary citizens will never have the capabilities or be able to use these technical solutions to get away from surveillance, but criminals could have them. So it just tells me how important it is that politicians actually take these issues seriously.

ES: Right. The argument is to explain to your colleagues, your peers in the legislature, that mass surveillance is fundamentally a cyber security threat.

BV: I understand

ES: Not only is Norway at risk of monitoring by countries that might want to do it harm, but also groups. Criminal groups are increasingly gaining access to this technology. If you hack a router, it does not matter if you are the NSA or whether you are the mafia. You can do the same sort of activities. You can for example watch what’s going on in law enforcement agencies; you can monitor what´s going on in parliament. Until we change that paradigm. Until we change the ease and availability of mass surveillance we are always going to be at risk of criminal groups, of foreign adversaries interfering with our economies, our politics, investigations and putting private citizens at risk. And ultimately, in the longer term, we face the cyber security threat of having hackers and criminals and all these other groups out there completely unable to be monitored, because if mass surveillance is not resolved by politicians it will be resolved by academics. This is not an impossible scientific problem. It is merely a difficult one. So we are going to have smart graduate students who in a few years will go: “I have got the solution”. But it may not be the solution we want.

BV: I think this is a very important point and one that I myself have not been able to communicate well enough in the Norwegian debate. One positive thing that at least has happened here, and I think also in other European countries is that people increasingly understand that metadata is a real problem. Partly I think it is because of the European data retention directive. I usually use an example when I talk to journalists. I say: “Lets say that you as a journalist were able, through your sources in government, politicians, officials or others were able to reveal a real story from the Norwegian Surveillance Agency or the defense ministry. You had your sources and had been working on this for a long time. The ministry thinks that this is a crime and wants you to reveal your sources. But you refuse. Do you think as a journalist that if they knew who you had been speaking to, at what time you made the calls, where your cellphone was, you think they would not be able to find your source?”

ES: Precisely

BV: Often they understand it better when looking at it from such an example. They understand that yes, metadata would make someone able to reveal my sources. If I may towards the end just ask you two brief questions. I understand that you know live, for someone in position, quite a normal life and that you are relatively secure. That is really good to hear. Is it true? Do you feel secure? Are you able to live a good life?

ES: I am not concerned about my security. Ultimately because if I am secure or if I am not secure I am doing the things that I believe in, so I am willing to take a measure of risk for that. I will never be entirely safe as long as I am wanted by so many government officials, who are all very powerful and also very embarrassed.

BV: But you are able to work for instance?

ES: I am able to work and I am able to continue to participate in the global debate and that is what is important to me, so I think I will be all right.


BV and ES discuss how to proceed when it comes to making the conversation public. Agree that we write a transcript for ES and his partners to look through to check that it does not compromise security and that there are no misunderstandings.