Edward Snowden argues in an interview scheduled to air Friday that Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state jeopardized national security secrets, and calls Clinton’s claims to the contrary “completely ridiculous.”
“When the unclassified systems of the United States government, which has a full-time information security staff, regularly gets hacked, the idea that someone keeping a private server in the renovated bathroom of a server farm in Colorado is more secure is completely ridiculous,” the National Security Agency whistleblower told Mehdi Hasan in an interview that will air Friday on the debut episode of UpFront, Hasan’s new weekly talk show on Al Jazeera English.
In excerpts of the interview provided to The Huffington Post, Snowden criticized Clinton for allegedly writing and receiving emails containing information that has now been deemed classified.
“It is a problem because anyone who has the clearances that the secretary of state has, or the director of any top-level agency has, knows how classified information should be handled,” Snowden said.
Clinton has said that the information in question was not classified at the time, but, rather, was rendered classified after the fact. The FBI is investigating who at the State Department sent the information in question to Clinton's private email account.
If lower-level employees had done what Clinton allegedly did, Snowden argued, “they would not only lose their jobs and lose their clearance, they would very likely face prosecution for it.”
Snowden is uniquely qualified to comment on the cybersecurity implications of Clinton’s email server: As an NSA contractor, he leaked millions of classified documents to journalists in June 2013, exposing the agency's mass surveillance programs. While his revelations sparked a debate about the impact of U.S. surveillance policies, they also demonstrated the relative ease with which the U.S. government’s classified information can be infiltrated.
He also knows all too well the consequences for government employees or contractors who violate official security protocol. The Obama administration is prosecuting Snowden under the Espionage Act, a World War I-era law that was created to punish political dissenters.
Speaking from Moscow, where he has been granted temporary asylum, Snowden said he was encouraged by signs that the Obama administration is considering greater lenience toward him. Former Attorney General Eric Holder indicated in July that a plea deal was still possible for the whistleblower, which Snowden called a “significant concession." However, he added that he would only return to the United States if he were assured a “fair trial” and access to a “public interest defense."
Snowden has come under fire from some critics for seeking refuge in Russia, a country notorious for its lack of political freedoms and freedom of speech. He told Hasan that he considers Russian President Vladimir Putin an “authoritarian leader" and that he has been “extremely critical of Russia’s human rights record, particularly as it relates to the Internet,” which is increasingly censored in Russia.