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Snowden: NSA 'Set Fire To Future Of Internet'
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden says the man running the spy agency and his predecessor have done more than anyone to harm the security of the internet and America's national security.
The former NSA contractor singled out Keith Alexander and Michael Hayden during a Q and A session via live video link from Moscow, where he is currently exiled after the US revoked his passport.
Snowden accused US agencies of prioritising offensive cyber operations over defence and exploiting security vulnerabilities in IT products in some cases urging companies to instal their own.
The NSA, he said, is "setting fire to the future of the internet".
The obsession with collecting as much data as possible over more traditional targeted techniques has had disastrous consequences, he argued.
"We've had intelligence failures because we are monitoring everyone's communications, not just suspects".
He said the failure of US law enforcement to anticipate the Boston Marathon bombing last April was a case in point.
Snowden appeared on huge screens before an audience of hundreds at the South By Southwest arts festival in Austin, Texas.
Organisers said his connection was secured through seven proxy servers.
Mediators read out a message of thanks to Snowden from Tim Berners-Lee, the British inventor of the worldwide web, saying he had acted "overwhelmingly in the public interest".
Snowden worked as a contractor for the NSA where he helped himself to numerous files, exposing hugely controversial surveillance programmes that are being operated by the US spy agency and its British counterpart GCHQ.
He is widely misreported to have taken an oath of secrecy, but did promise to uphold the US constitution. An enlarged image of the Preamble to the Constitution, beginning "We the People" appeared behind his face as a backdrop.
He said he had no regrets.
"Would I do it again? Absolutely," he told the audience.
"I took an oath to defend the Constitution and I saw it had been violated on a massive scale."
Snowden insisted the NSA is violating the Fourth Amendment that "prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and requires any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probably cause".
His revelations include the agency's routine collection of the data of all American phone calls.
He also revealed a joint US-British secret surveillance programme called PRISM that collects internet communications data handed over by service providers when faced with demands to do so.
Another programme operated by British spies at GCHQ allows access to data without the help of internet companies by directly syphoning it from transatlantic fibre optic cables.
Snowden has revealed that the NSA and GCHQ has penetrated the cloud computer networks of giants like Google and Yahoo, previously thought to be secure.
Most recently, he exposed a programme that collected as many as 1.8 million private images of ordinary people using webcams, many of which were said to be of a intimate nature.
Snowden indicated there may be many more revelations to come and said encryption has allowed him to evade the scrutiny of US intelligence and the spying of his Russian hosts, and the Chinese before them.
The US team investigating him, he said, "has no idea what documents I have or what I've given to journalists, thanks to encryption".
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