NSA Leaker Snowden to Chat Live January 23-Snow Job on the Way?

By Peter Bernstein January 22, 2014

Yes, the headline is correct, with a little embellishment obviously.  NSA secrets leaker Edward Snowden is taking to the Internet for the second time since his revelations put him at or near the top of the daily global news for over the past half year. And, if you have been itching to ask Mr. Snowden a question, here is your chance. As noted, on January 23 at 3 PM ET/12 PM Pacific Snowden will answer questions submitted by the public on his official support site, freesnowden.is—run by The Courage Foundation which touts itself as “The only endorsed Snowden Defence Fund.”

For those unfamiliar, as the website notes:

Courage (formerly the Journalistic Source Protection Defence Fund) is a trust, audited by accountants Derek Rothera & Company in the UK, for the purpose of providing legal defence and campaign aid to journalistic sources. It is overseen by an unremunerated committee of trustees. Edward Snowden is its first recipient.

The freesnowden.is website was commissioned by the trustees of Courage to provide information on the threats Edward Snowden faces and what can be done to support him, and details all revelations made to date in a convenient central archive.

This will be the first live Snowden chat since the June 2013 one hosted by The Guardian and moderated by reporter Glenn Greenwald who has been a major Snowden conduit. What is being billed as a “Virtual Town Hall” will last for an hour.  

While obviously there will be limited time to answer what are likely to be a slew of questions, this is like the old saying about participating in lotteries, and “You’ve got to be in it to win it!

Instructions to get in the question queue are simple.  Submit what you’d like to have answered on Twitter on the day of the event using the #AskSnowden hashtag. Edward Snowden’s responses will appear at http://www.freesnowden.is/asksnowden.

The timing of the chat is obviously part of what has been a rather well-orchestrated public relations campaign since the start of the revelations.  It comes on the heels of President Barack Obama’s speech and recommendations last week regarding possible reforms to U.S. government surveillance practices and laws which are central to the debate touched off by the Snowden leaks. The expectation is that Snowden is likely to share his reactions to what President Obama. There could also be comments on his views of the 46 recommendations the distinguished panel that reported to the president thinks ought to be instituted.

Based on the Sunday news shows in the U.S. this past weekend, one question that is likely to be raised if not addressed is whether Mr. Snowden is a long actor or had help, specifically from his current Russian hosts.  U.S. officials raised the specter of all this, although there has yet to be a public disclosure as to a trail that would indicate Snowden had accomplices. 

Whether you think Snowden is a hero (snowman to be appreciated) or traitor/villain the fact that modern technology enables such interactions is something to appreciate.  Will like his first online interactive event in June be perceived as nothing more than a virtual “snow job”?  That is up to all who participate to decide during and post the chat. 

I will be interesting to watch reactions on Twitter as things move along. On a variety of fronts I am sure we will see instant analysis as well as lots of post mortems.  And, maybe I have been watching too many thrillers and the TV show Homeland, but it will also be interesting to see if anyone tries to hack the event in an attempt to disrupt it, or at a minimum tests their skills to jump the question line.    

Let it snow. Let it snow. Let it snow!

Edited by Cassandra Tucker
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