Snowden is a ‘polarizing force,’ says Post’s Barton Gellman

2 min read

As one of only three people with direct contact to Edward Snowden, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bart Gellman shared with the Shorenstein Center how the Snowden leaks about the NSA have affected the U.S. government, marketplace, and democracy.

Snowden’s greatest fear, Gellman said, was that either “he would be preempted” in his attempt to “drop a dime on the surveillance state without being surveilled,” or that he would be “greeted by indifference.” Snowden wanted a “substantial debate on where the boundaries should be drawn in terms of secret intelligence gathering in a democracy,” Gellman said, and he acknowledged that as a result of the Snowden leaks, a significant debate has indeed taken root in both the national and international arenas.

“Snowden is a polarizing force,” Gellman said. But stepping back to look at the big picture, he pointed out that what we have learned is that we are “living increasingly behind one-way mirrors in which we are more and more transparent to our government and to large corporate interests,” Gellman said, “and they are more and more opaque to us because the surveillance is accompanied by extraordinary levels of secrecy.”

Gellman concluded by saying that “there is a conflict of core values at work here, which is self-government and self-defense. And while he does not consider himself to be an advocate, he did acknowledge himself to be an “advocate for truth telling and also for sufficient transparency to allow the public to govern itself.”

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