Questioner: I'd like to ask you a little bit more about Edward Snowden. Last year Governor Bill Richardson was where you are and he said, "I don't think Snowden is a patriot. I think Snowden ... what he did was wrong." Do you think Snowden is a patriot? Do you think we need to keep relying on people like Snowden to keep exposing these things? And, if so, is that any way to run a society - to really just "fingers-crossed" that someone puts themselves on the line and has to go and escape to Russia and hope the CIA don't get them?
Schneier: Well, that was a pretty extreme story. I think whistleblowers are extremely valuable in society. I think they act somewhat as a random audit. And they do provide a great service. And yes, it's not something you want to rely on, but they are a safety-valve. And Yochai Benkler has written a paper on this. I think it's called "The Leaky Leviathan" - talking about how ... how good systems, robust systems are leaky. and the leaks are valuable. 1
I personally think what Snowden did was moral and sound. But the discussion of "patriot" or "traitor" is really a history discussion. I tend not to like it because it focuses the story on the person rather than on the documents. And I think the real story is the documents and the NSA - and not the method by which we learned about the documents and the NSA.
- Though Benkler has written a lot on whistleblowers and national security, perhaps Schneier is thinking of Daniel Pozen's (2013) piece "Why the government condemns and condones unlawful disclosures of information." ↩