Whistleblower Edward Snowden, who revealed the mass surveillance programmes organised by the US and other governments, has given this year’s Alternative Christmas Message on Channel 4 television in the UK.
Six months ago, Snowden, a computer analyst turned whistleblower, brought to global attention top-secret National Security Agency (NSA) documents leading to revelations about widespread United States surveillance on phone and internet communications.
In his first recorded TV video since arriving in Moscow, Snowden lays out his vision for why privacy matters and why he believes mass indiscriminate surveillance by governments of their people is wrong.
He says: “Great Britain’s George Orwell warned us of the danger of this kind of information. The types of collection in the book – microphones and video cameras, TVs that watch us are nothing compared to what we have available today. We have sensors in our pockets that track us everywhere we go. Think about what this means for the privacy of the average person.
“A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all. They’ll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves an unrecorded, unanalysed thought. And that’s a problem because privacy matters, privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be.”
He acknowledges the growing pressure facing the White House over its bulk collection programmes from world leaders, the US courts and even its own advisors and ends his message on an optimistic note.
“The conversation occurring today will determine the amount of trust we can place both in the technology that surrounds us and the government that regulates it. Together we can find a better balance, end mass surveillance and remind the government that if it really wants to know how we feel asking is always cheaper than spying,” says Mr Snowden.
Head of News and Current Affairs Dorothy Byrne commented: “Edward Snowden’s decision to reveal the extent of surveillance programmes was one of the most significant news events of the year. The information which he has placed in the public domain raises serious questions for democratic society. This is an opportunity for our viewers to hear from him directly and judge for themselves what he has to say.“
After the revelations came to light, Washington revoked Snowden’s passport and issued a warrant for his arrest on charges of unauthorised disclosure of classified information and theft of government property. Exiled from his country, the 30-year-old, former NSA contractor now lives in Russia after fleeing the United States via Hong Kong back in May.
The Alternative Christmas Message on Channel 4 runs at the same time as the BBC broadcasts a message from the Queen. It has been airing since 1993. Others offering a different perspective on the season have included US civil rights campaigner the Rev Jesse Jackson.
* The Alternative Christmas Message was broadcast on Channel 4 at 4.15pm on Christmas Day. It is now available to view on 4oD: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/4od
* Christmas on Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/christmas