Snowden on Cyber Warfare: “We Really Started This Trend”


January 8, 2015

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden said that the U.S. is setting a dangerous precedent by creating the capability to launch damaging cyber attacks against other countries. Such attacks wouldn’t just embarrass major movie studio executives and scuttle movie release plans, they could cut power to hospitals or damage power plants or other key infrastructure.

“The public still isn’t aware of the frequency of these cyber attacks are being used by governments around the world,” he said, adding that the U.S. “really started this trend in many ways.”

Snowden spoke to journalist James Bamford in June for an upcoming NOVA film on cyber warfare. The whistleblower compared U.S. investment in online espionage to Jurassic Park — something we’ve built that could ultimately come back to bite us.

Classified documents obtained by Snowden showed that U.S. agencies have found and even created technical vulnerabilities that allow American agents to gather intelligence from phone calls, emails and other communications both in the U.S. and around the world.

But in making it easier for its agents to spy, Snowden says, the U.S. also makes American companies, and its citizens, more vulnerable to hacks. It sets a dangerous precedent for other governments to launch such attacks, he said. And the U.S. has much more to lose — in research, intelligence, and infrastructure — than other nations.

You can watch an excerpt of NOVA’s interview below — and read the full transcript at NOVA Next.

Related Film: Find out more about the Snowden revelations and the evolution of our massive surveillance network in FRONTLINE’s two-part documentary, United States of Secrets.

Sarah Childress

Sarah Childress, Series Senior Editor, FRONTLINE



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