For the last 20 years, the UK's Channel 4 has engaged in a unique tradition: broadcasting an alternative Christmas message to that delivered by the Queen on other networks.
Today, Edward Snowden delivered that alternative message in an address filmed in Moscow by Laura Poitras. It was Snowden's first television interview since his arrival in Russia, and his message was clearly intended for both British and American audiences.
In his address, Snowden emphasized both privacy's importance and how essential current discussions are about governments' role in protecting citizens' privacy:
“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.”This conversation Snowden began by revealing NSA surveillance abuses has resulted in a federal judge ruling the NSA's bulk phone surveillance is unconstitutional and the White House's own independent task force recommending that the NSA abandon much of its bulk surveillance practices.
"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.”
This conversation has also prompted President Obama to admit that we, as a nation, must openly discuss issues of privacy and the NSA.
It is a conversation that would likely be more open if those whistleblowers who begin the discussion are not threatened with life imprisonment.
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, just out from Oneworld Publications.