Snowden has answers, but NSA still holds the questions

The IT pro at the center of the NSA scandal held an online Q&A today. We'd tell you what he said, but then we'd have to kill you

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Of course, the twits were out in full force, using the #asksnowden hashtag to promote their tinfoil-hat theories and/or snarky questions. Sadly Snowden was not asked to answer this one:

#AskSnowden Which character in Fellowship of the Ring do you most identify with re: your status as a leaker?

It's gotta be Frodo. Why even ask?

Privacy Camp's Shaun Dakin asks another obvious question, also via Twitter: How good is the NSA surveillance if they can't find Snowden in Hong Kong during a global Internet chat? #fail

The Q&A was also notable for the incredibly relaxed pace of the questions and answers. Sometimes 10 or 12 minutes would elapse between them. My hunch is that Snowden was changing locations and using a using a variety of encrypted communications channels to talk to Guardian editors, who were then typing in his answers (possibly while wearing Guy Fawkes masks).

The slow trickle of answers

Overall, though, I didn't learn much more about the Snowden affair than I knew before the Q&A commenced. We still have more questions than answers. But at least we are starting to get some answers.

We know a teensy bit more about the number of law enforcement requests Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook receive, for example, though not the number or type of those coming from the NSA. We're learning that the number of Americans spied upon is "less than 300" -- all allegedly tied to terrorist organizations -- and more about plots allegedly foiled by this surveillance, though in the sketchiest possible way. We know the NSA could legally collect location data but chooses not to because it doesn't provide "sufficient intelligence value." (Honk if you believe them). Hopefully this is just the beginning.

I'll end with Snowden's answer to why he did this in the first place:

It was seeing a continuing litany of lies from senior officials to Congress -- and therefore the American people -- and the realization that that Congress, specifically the Gang of Eight, wholly supported the lies that compelled me to act. Seeing someone in the position of James Clapper -- the Director of National Intelligence -- baldly lying to the public without repercussion is the evidence of a subverted democracy. The consent of the governed is not consent if it is not informed.

This country is worth dying for.

I, for one, hope it doesn't come to that.

What should be Snowden's fate? What changes if any would you like to see as a result of these disclosures? Post your thoughts below or email me: cringe@infoworld.com.

This article, "Snowden has answers, but NSA still holds the questions," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

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