On Sunday’s edition of HBO’s Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver travelled to Russia to interview NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. It’s been almost two years since Snowden fled to Moscow after leaking hundreds of thousands of documents revealing NSA spying programs.
The interview started off on awkward footing as Snowden was more than an hour late for the interview, as Oliver realised that the building they were filming in was directly across from the headquarters of Russia’s Federal Security Bureau.
Oliver seemed genuinely surprised when the man he described as the “most famous hero and/or traitor in recent American history” did show up.
After asking Snowden how much he missed America and hot pockets, Oliver challenged Snowden on how many of the leaked documents he had read. Snowden was unequivocal, saying that he had “evaluated” all of them, but didn’t go so far as to say he read all of them.
“I do understand what I turned over,” said Snowden.
“Not good enough,” Oliver responded. “There’s a difference between understanding what’s in the documents and reading what’s in the documents… because when you’re handing over thousands of NSA documents the last thing you’d want to do is read them.”
Oliver went on to cite the New York Times publishing of an unredacted slide of Mosul showing a US program against Al Qaeda, calling it a “f*** up.”
“It is a f*** up and those things do happen in reporting,” Snowden 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,” responded Oliver. “You’re giving documents with information you know could be harmful, which could get out there,.”
Snowden seemed genuinely taken aback by Oliver’s hard stance.
From there on, the interview loosened up a bit, as Oliver showed Snowden a compilation of New Yorkers who barely knew who Snowden was or what he did and were far more concerned when the interviewer asked them about the government spying on their “dick pics.”
Oliver then had Snowden explain each NSA program and executive order in terms of how it allowed the government to view your “dick pics.”
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