06:33 GMT15 May 2021
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    The former Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency contractor fled the United States and ended up in Russia in 2013 after blowing the whistle on the vast extent of US and UK illegal mass surveillance programmes. He has gone on to advise people about how they can protect themselves against electronic snooping by governments.

    NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden made an unusual appearance at a real estate investing Zoom conference over the weekend, spending several minutes talking about whistleblowing and ethics, pivoting the conversation to attack the host for his alleged involvement in a Ponzi scheme and abruptly leaving.

    “In the context of this idea of whistleblowing, it’s really remarkable to me that people go through the day and they become so familiar with this sense of wrongdoing, with seeing things like I saw in the office [at the NSA] and hoping that somebody else would do something about it, or turning a blind eye and going ‘it’s not my problem, these are not my people, it doesn’t impact me, you know I can get by with it’, that just let things happen. But I don’t do that anymore,” Snowden said in a livestream with Canadian businessman and conference host Sunil Tulsiani on Saturday.

    He went on to explain that a friend had reached out to him to tell him that users had to pay to watch sections of the conference, and suggested that “in a time of inequality, we can’t accept that”.

    “So I have to ask – it’s very unusual that you booked me for this conference because as a whistleblower it’s my obligation, I think personally and professionally to ask – is this you?” Snowden asked, posting a screengrab of a CBC News article accusing Tulsiani of running a $4.4 million Ponzi scheme involving the sale of high-risk bonds in Ontario and Manitoba.
    Screengrab from investment conference in which Edward Snowden exposes alleged Ponzi schemer.
    © Photo : YouTube / Jeremy Barbay
    Screengrab from investment conference in which Edward Snowden exposes alleged Ponzi schemer.

    “Yes,” Tulsiani responded.

    “I think that the things that I’ve heard tonight make me very uncomfortable with this event. I think it makes me very uncomfortable, and everyone involved should really question – is this the kind of association that they want to have? Are you going to be able to deliver on the promises that you’re making [people]? I hope to God that you will. My advice to everyone on this call tonight – everyone looking at this, is: look up what you’re getting involved in. If you sent money, are you sure you want to send it, or do you want to charge it back? And by God think hard about if you want to continue with this. Because for me, ladies and gentlemen for tonight, I don’t. Thank you so much and good night,” Snowden added before logging out.

    “Wow. Wow,” a dumbfounded Tulsiani exclaimed. “Let’s take like few minutes break and I’ll be right back. We’ll go over this…This is totally unexpected and I’m so sorry that this has happened,” he continued, spending several more moments mumbling gibberish in his defence. A hot mic then picked up on someone talking about a “wasted f***ing day”.

    Snowden’s appearance came over five and a half hours into the conference, during which Tulsiani asked attendees to dole out $47 for a special “VIP” session, and told them to “stop asking what time Ed is coming on”.

    After returning from the break, Tulsiani suggested that the “clickbait article” Snowden linked to did not show him to be convicted of any criminal wrongdoing. “We were snowed in today…But this is not going to slow down me or my plerking,” he joked, referring to the portmanteau of ‘play and work’.

    In a tweet ahead of the conference which he deleted after the event, Snowden promoted the event and said he would appear “to talk about the idea of a wealthy society, the ethics of sacrifice”, and whether he would repeat his 2013 decision to blow the whistle if he had the chance to do so knowing what he does now.

    Edward Snowden has lived in Russia for over eight years, with the Russian government repeatedly extending his residence permits. Late last year, he revealed that he and his wife would apply for dual US-Russian citizenship.

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