The event, hosted by Amnesty International UK, preceded a screening of the Oscar-winning documentary, Citizenfour. Directed by Laura Poitras, the film reflects on the life-changing decision of former NSA-contractor Edward Snowden to blow the lid on the agency’s domestic spying apparatus.
Appearing before the audience through a live video feed, Snowden said that despite the small progress made with the expiration of the Patriot Act provisions, ultimately, "it’s not about the law."
"It’s about the fact that despite the fact that this program was considered ineffective and illegal by every branch of government, spies and their representatives in Congress argued that it should remain."
"We cannot give up the foundation of all rights," he added. "And that’s what privacy is."
— PrivacyInternational (@privacyint) June 2, 2015
Snowden also pointed that while curbing the NSA is certainly a critical step, British GCHQ is even worse, and much must still be done on a global scale.
"The government in the UK is actually trying to reform laws in a very negative way," he said, adding that the British government wants to amend legislation so that it can "hack into people’s computers who aren’t an intelligence target at all."
These programs are being pursued despite the fact that there is no evidence for their efficacy.
"Do we really want the government watching everybody all the time? You have to remember the fact that we have a proven history now that these programs are not effective."
— Kostantino Kampiotis (@KampiotisK) June 2, 2015
This is evidenced by the Boston Marathon Bombing of 2013, the first major attack on US soil since the implementation of the surveillance program, which intelligence agencies failed to prevent.
Why should any of this matter to the average, law-abiding citizen? To Snowden, that’s like saying "I don’t care about free speech because I have nothing to say. I don’t care about freedom of the press because I don’t have anything to write."
— Liam Hilton (@liam_m_hilton) June 2, 2015
Despite how much his life has changed, Snowden says he would do it all again.
"I have applied for asylum in 21 countries across the world, many in Western Europe. I’m still waiting for them to get back to me."
But he may not be in that big of a rush. When asked where he sees himself in five years, the whistleblower said, "I wake up with a smile on my face everyday. Life is good."