Last week, Edward Snowden spoke at a University of Arizona panel discussion, which also included Professor Noam Chomsky and journalist Glenn Greenwald. He spoke to the crowd via Skype.
The basic point Snowden kept hitting home was that the Brussels terror attack could have been avoided and that the proper authorities had been alerted to the plan before it was carried out. Snowden said the same of the Boston marathon bombing. He said that the International surveillance program is not being used to prevent these acts of terror but to spy on all citizens for no apparent reason.
About the Brussels attack, which claimed 30 lives, Snowden said this:
“It was preventable through traditional means, not mass surveillance. An allied intelligence service — in this case, in Turkey — warned Belgium that this individual was a criminal, that they were involved in terrorist activities, and this individual turned out to be one of the suicide bombers.”
Snowden drove home his long-held belief in the uselessness of mass surveillance to stop any attack. He even went so far as to remind the crowd of the Boston marathon bombing. “We were explicitly warned by foreign intelligence services that one of the brothers [who] was involved in the bombings would be engaged in that kind of activity,” Snowden said, before adding that nothing was done to stop the horror in Boston either.
Snowden reminded the crowds of the fact that Russian intelligence contacted the FBI with information about Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s links to militant Muslim terrorist groups. the U.S. intelligence community did nothing to prevent that tragedy, which claimed lives and left many permanently disabled.
Just as with the Boston marathon bombing, two of the brothers involved in the Brussels attack, Khalid and Ibrahim El Bakraoui, “were listed as a potential terror threat in U.S. databases,” NBC News reported. Congress has now requested information on what was known and how that information was shared.
Angrily, Snowden pointed fingers and denounced the surveillance programs of the West:
“The exploitive mindset of Western politicians is to say, every time there’s a successful attack carried out, it means we need to wage war on encryption, we need greater surveillance, we need more police in these communities. But the reality is … none of that will actually help detect the attack.”
This all begs the question, If our intelligence communities are not acting on very real threats they are aware of, what then is all this data collecting from all citizens being used for?