Translation of Der Spiegel Magazine article, July 7, 2013:
Just before Edward Snowden became a world famous whistleblower, he answered an extensive catalog of questions. These came from, amongst others, Jacob Appelbaum, 30, a developer of encryption and security software. Appelbaum educates international human rights groups and journalists on how to work with the Internet in safe and anonymous way.
He became more publicly know in 2010, when he represented WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaking at a hacker conference in New York. Along with Assange and other co-authors he has recently published the interview recording "Cypher Punks: Our Freedom and the future of the Internet."
In the course of investigations into the WikiLeaks disclosures, Appelbaum came to the attention of American authorities, who demanded companies such as Twitter and Google to divulge his accounts. He himself describes his attitude to WikiLeaks as "ambivalent" - and describes below how it came about that he was able to ask Snowden these questions.
In mid-May I was contacted by the documentary-maker Laura Poitras. She told me, that at this time she was in contact with an anonymous NSA source, which had consented to be interviewed by her.
She put together questions and asked me to contribute questions. This was, among other reasons, to determine whether she was really dealing with a NSA whistleblower. We sent our questions via encrypted e-mails. I did not know that the interlocutor was Edward Snowden until he revealed himself as such in public in Hong Kong. He did not know who I was. I had expected that he was someone in their sixties.
The following is an excerpt from a extensive interview which dealt with further points, many of them technical in nature. Some of the questions now appear in a different order to understand the context.
The discussion focused almost exclusively on the activities of the National Security Agency. It is important to know that these questions were not asked as relating to the events of the past week or the last month. They were entirely asked without any unrest, since, at that point, Snowden was still in Hawaii.
At a later stage I was again in direct contact with Snowden, at which time I also revealed my own my identity. He told me then that he gave consent to publish his statements.
Question: What is the mission of the National Security Agency (NSA) - and how is their job in accordance with the law?
Snowden: It is the mission of the NSA, to be aware of anything of importance going on outside of the United States. This is a considerable task, and the people there are convinced that not knowing everything about everyone could lead to some existential crisis. So, at some point, you believe it's all right is to bend the rules a little. Then, if people hate it that you can bend the rules, it suddenly becomes vital even to to break them.
Question: Are German authorities or politicians involved in the monitoring system ?
Snowden: Yes of course. They (the NSA people -- ed.) are in cahoots with the Germans, as well as with the most other Western countries. We (in the U.S. intelligence apparatus -- ed.) warn the others, when someone we want to catch, uses one of their airports - and they then deliver them to us. The information on this, we can for example pull off of the monitored mobile phone of a suspected hacker’s girlfriend -- who used it in an entirely different country which has nothing to do with the case. The other authorities do not ask us where got the leads, and we do not ask them anything either. That way, they can protect their political staff from any backlash if it came out how massive the global violation of people’s privacy is.
Question: But now as details of this system are revealed, who will be put before a court over this?
Snowden: Before U.S. courts? You're not serious, are you? When the last large wiretapping scandal was investigated - the interception without a court order, which concerned millions of communications - that should really have led to the longest prison sentences in world history. However, then our highest representatives simply stopped the investigation. The question, who is to be accused, is theoretical, if the laws themselves are not respected. Laws are meant for people like you or me - but not for them.
Question: Does the NSA cooperate with other states like Israel?
Snowden: Yes, all the time. The NSA has a large section for that, called the FAD - Foreign Affairs Directorate.
Question: Did the NSA help to write the Stuxnet program? (the malicious program used against the Iranian nuclear facilities -- ed.)
Snowden: The NSA and Israel wrote Stuxnet together.