Submitted by: Veronica Coffin
‘You have to own that,’ comedian tells former spy agency contractor
John Oliver sat down with National Security Agency contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden on HBO’s “Last Week Tonight” for a wide-ranging interview that was funny and, at times, surprisingly tense.
Oliver, who flew to Moscow to conduct the interview, grilled Snowden on the leaked documents.
“How many of those documents have you actually read?” Oliver asked Snowden.
“I have evaluated all of the documents that are in the archive,” the 31-year-old former CIA systems administrator said. “I do understand what I turned over.”
“There’s a difference between understanding what’s in the documents and reading what’s in the documents,” Oliver countered. “Because when you’re handing over thousands of NSA documents, the last thing you’d want to do is read them.”
The comedian and former “Daily Show” correspondent pointed out that Snowden’s actions led to the disclosure of sensitive information beyond the NSA’s controversial government surveillance program, including the revelation that the United States was monitoring al-Qaida in northern Iraq.
“The New York Times took a slide, didn’t redact it properly, and in the end it was possible for people to see that something was being used in Mosul on al-Qaida,” Oliver said.
“That is a problem,” Snowden conceded.
“Well, that’s a f—up,” Oliver declared.
“It is a f—up, and those things do happen in reporting,” Snowen said. “In journalism, we have to accept that some mistakes will be made. This is a fundamental concept of liberty.”
“Right. But you have to own that then,” Oliver said. “You’re giving documents with information you know could be harmful, which could get out there.”
Snowden appeared to pause before offering a response: “Yes.”
The interview had plenty of lighter moments, too.
Oliver asked Snowden — who has been living in asylum in Russia for more than 18 months — if he misses America, specifically Hot Pockets and “the entire state of Florida.”
“Yes, I miss Hot Pockets very much,” Snowden replied. (Florida? Not so much.)
Later, Oliver asked Snowden if the spy agency was collecting racy photos of Americans’ private parts.
“The good news is there’s no program named ‘The D— Pic Program,’” Snowden said. “The bad news is they’re still collecting everybody’s information — including your d— pics.”