"The governments care less and less about rights and more and more about power. These authorities that were produced allegedly to protect us against terrorism are increasingly applied against journalists, who write critical stories the government does not like. They are applied against immigrants … politically exposed people and dissidents. More broadly, they are being applied against minorities," Snowden said during the UK Open Rights Group's conference in London, speaking via video link from Moscow.
He also stressed that such authorities were mostly aimed at controlling, shaping and influencing the direction of society rather than at protecting public safety, which constituted their initial mission.
Speaking of mass surveillance, Snowden stated that once the government started abusing secrecy and using it as a shelter from accountability, policy makers took advantage of that and started doing whatever they considered to be right regardless of any rules and restrictions. This is how the public can turn from the government's master into its subject, Snowden said.
— Ellie ❤ (@elliesadcherry) 13 июля 2019 г.
The wistleblower paid particular attention to the US mass surveillance policy, especially that part of it that concerns citizens of other countries. He said that the US inner laws were allowing Washington to do anything it liked in case it wanted to keep an eye on someone.
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"The laws have been structured in such a way that the US government can make representation to foreign politicians and go 'We have rules that say we won't do this, we won't look at you, we will not scrutinize you unless you are up to no good. You just simply need to trust us that they are being followed ... We can look at whatever we want under our own domestic laws because those rules are not truly binding,'" Snowden said.
In 2013, Snowden leaked classified documents exposing mass surveillance by US authorities around the globe. Russia granted him temporary asylum for one year after he fled the United States. In 2014, Snowden received a three-year residence permit to live in Russia, which was later extended until 2020.