National Security Brief: Snowden Says He’s ‘Famously Paranoid’

The New York Times’ Peter Maass conducted an interview with former NSA contractor Edward Snowden as part of a wider profile of Laura Poitras, one of the journalists Snowden leaked secret surveillance documents to. In the interview, Snowden explains why he decided to hand over the NSA’s secrets to Poitras and the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald:

After 9/11, many of the most important news outlets in America abdicated their role as a check to power — the journalistic responsibility to challenge the excesses of government — for fear of being seen as unpatriotic and punished in the market during a period of heightened nationalism. […]

Laura and Glenn are among the few who reported fearlessly on controversial topics throughout this period, even in the faceof withering personal criticism, and resulted in Laura specifically becoming targeted by the very programs involved in the recent disclosures.

Snowden said that trust was an issue in their initial contact. “We came to a point in the verification and vetting process where I discovered Laura was more suspicious of me than I was of her, and I’m famously paranoid,” he said, later adding that he was put at ease by Poitras’s “natural talent for security.”


Meanwhile, the Times also reported on Tuesday that NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander presented a plan to deploy a cyber defense program designed to intercept cyberattacks “before they could cripple power plants, banks or financial markets.” However, U.S. officials said the plan has no chance of going forward “given the backlash against the N.S.A. over the recent disclosures about its surveillance programs.”

Also on Monday, President Obama announced that he is ordering Director of National Intelligence James Clapper — who recently apologized for “erroneous” statements to Congress about the NSA’s spying programs — to establish a review group determine whether intelligence agencies’ surveillance operations are operating on legal and ethical grounds.

The group “will assess whether, in light of advancements in communications technologies, the United States employs its technical collection capabilities in a manner that optimally protects our national security and advances our foreign policy while appropriately accounting for other policy considerations, such as the risk of unauthorized disclosure and our need to maintain the public trust,” Obama said in a statement.

In other news:

  • USA Today reports: America’s top military officer said he remains concerned about Islamic extremist groups among the opposition in Syria but the United States and its allies are getting a clearer picture of the moderate groups they support.
  • The Wall Street Journal reports: India’s finance minister said Monday that the country wants to boost imports of Iranian crude as it wrestles with economic woes — a step that comes weeks after the U.S. State Department exempted New Delhi from sanctions and one that could complicate U.S. efforts to pressure Tehran into ending its nuclear program.