Ahead of an appearance via teleconference at a popular tech conference in the U.S. on Monday, exiled NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is receiving support from tens of thousands of his fellow Americans who think he should be granted immunity by President Obama.
Scheduled to talk with attendees at the SXSW tech and culture conference in Austin, Texas via videostream, the ACLU is championing the 30-year-old former contractor for the National Security Agency with an online petition that has nearly garnered its forty-five-thousand signature goal. As of Sunday afternoon, 44,183 people had signed it.
"Edward Snowden is a great American who deserves full immunity for his patriotic acts," reads the statement attached to the petition by the well-known rights group. "When Snowden blew the whistle on the NSA, he single-handedly reignited a global debate about government surveillance and our most fundamental rights as individuals."
Citing threats against Snowden from current and former high-level U.S. officials and lawmakers, his supporters say that the whistleblower should be offered adequate protections that take into account the motivations of his actions and the undeniable importance of the discussions that have resulted from his public disclosures.
Also featuring members of the ACLU staff who have taken up Snowden's case, the SXSW website describes Monday's "virtual conversation" with Snowden this way:
Our communications are not secure. Our telephone calls, emails, texts, and web browsing activity are largely transmitted without any encryption, making it easy for governments to intercept them, in bulk. Likewise, the mobile devices, apps, and web browsers that we use do not protect our data. In many cases, they intentionally give it to third party companies as part of the sprawling online advertising ecosystem. This only makes the NSA's task easier.
Join us for a conversation between Edward Snowden and Christopher Soghoian, the American Civil Liberties Union’s principal technologist, focused on the impact of the NSA's spying efforts on the technology community, and the ways in which technology can help to protect us from mass surveillance. The conversation will be moderated by Ben Wizner, who is director of the ACLU's Speech, Privacy & Technology Project and Edward Snowden’s legal advisor.