Asked if buying his memoir would get one on a spy list, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden chillingly replied that everyone in the world is on the “list” and there are no innocents in the age of mass surveillance.
Responding to a reader who joked that buying Snowden’s book ‘Permanent Record’ might have put him on a list of people to be spied on, the exiled former intelligence contractor said in all seriousness that everyone is being spied on regardless.
“Systems of mass surveillance strive to record all people, in all places, at all times. The question is no longer ‘Am I on the list?’ it is ‘What’s my rank on the list?’,” Snowden tweeted on Wednesday.
The former NSA and CIA contractor became a household name in 2013, when he revealed the extent of surveillance by the ‘Five Eyes’ network of US and its allies. He fled to Hong Kong ahead of being charged with espionage and eventually found asylum in Russia.
The US government reacted to the publication of his memoir by filing a civil lawsuit seeking to confiscate all proceeds from it, on grounds that it violates his nondisclosure agreement with the NSA and the CIA. This only helped the book become an instant best-seller.
Snowden has repeatedly made the case that everyone is being spied on regardless of whether they were actually engaged in any wrongdoing.
“Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say,” he said during a discussion on Reddit in May 2015.