MINNEAPOLIS — In a Friday interview with Al-Jazeera, exiled NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden responded to two of his critics: presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Mehdi Hasan, the host of Al-Jazeera’s “Upfront,” played audio of Trump talking about Snowden to the whistleblower: “This guy’s a bad guy. There is still a thing called execution.”
Hasan asked Snowden, who joined the show from Russia via video chat, “Are you worried about what a president trump might do to you?”
The whistleblower laughed as he responded. “No, I’m not.”
He added: “It’s very difficult to respond in a serious way to any statement made by Donald Trump.”
Snowden added that Trump’s popularity in the race reflects a lack of “credibility” in American politics. “The arguments about whether I’m a good guy or a bad guy are a red herring,” he said, explaining that they distract Americans from discussing the actual contents of his leaks.
Hasan also asked Snowden to reflect on another of his major critics, Hillary Clinton. In a February interview with Re/Code, an independent tech news organization, Clinton told reporter Kara Swisher that she disapproved of Snowden’s actions even though she agreed they had started a necessary conversation about the NSA’s actions. She told Swisher:
“I can never condone what he did. He stole millions of documents, and the great irony is the vast majority of those documents had nothing to do with civil liberties.”
In other appearances, Clinton has insisted that Snowden should have gone through internal government channels rather than leaking information to the press, and implied that he might have provided his information to China or Russia, either deliberately or by accident.
Snowden has maintained that he tried those proper channels and only approached the press after the government failed to respond to his complaints on the mass surveillance of Americans.
Now Clinton herself is accused of having classified material on a private email server she maintained in her home. Snowden responded to the scandal on UpFront by comparing the way the government is treating Clinton to how an average government employee might fare in a similar situation:
“If an ordinary worker at the State Department or the Central Intelligence Agency … were sending details about the security of embassies … meetings with private government officials, foreign government officials, and the statements that were made to them in confidence over unclassified email systems, they would not only lose their job and lose their clearance, they would very likely face prosecution for it.”
Snowden also suggested that since official U.S. government servers, protected by a full-time security staff, get hacked on a regular basis, it’s very likely that Clinton left classified material dangerously exposed on her server.
Watch “Snowden hits back at Clinton and Trump” from Al-Jazeera’s Upfront: