At the end of the opening session of this year's TED Conference in Vancouver, there was a surprise speaker: Edward Snowden, who appeared via a telepresence robot transmitting from an undisclosed location in Russia. The host for the Conference, Chris Anderson, interviewed him, and did not shy away from any tough questions.
He also took a straw poll on the spot from the TED audience as to whether they considered Snowden to be a hero or a traitor. Not everyone, it became apparent, was prepared to decide, based on what is known so far.
But two things came clear from the interview: Snowden did what he did not in the pay of any foreign power, nor with any illusions about what it might cost him. Rather he exposed the NSA's machinations because to him, what the NSA is doing can lead only to the complete corruption and undermining of the Internet. And (one of the unique advantages of the TED environment) as you will see, no less a person than the Internet's inventor, Dr. Tim Berners-Lee, agrees with him.
Listen closely to this fascinating interview, and make up your own mind.
[UPDATE 03/20/2014: Chris Anderson offered NSA equal time to present their side of the matter, and they took him up on his offer. The NSA's Deputy Director, Richard Ledgett, appeared on the TED screens at this morning's session, and answered Chris Anderson's questions while critiquing Mr. Snowden's version of the facts:
From the exchange of the two views, I would conclude that the biggest problem the NSA has with Edward Snowden is not what he has disclosed to the press already, but the nearly two million documents that he has yet to make public. One unnamed security official was quoted to the effect that "Compared to Snowden, what [Julian] Assange / Bradley (Chelsea) Manning leaked was just a mosquito bite." The issue is whether a private contractor's employee, even one with all the clearances Snowden must have had, is in any position to judge the significance to America and its allies of what those yet undisclosed documents would reveal to our enemies.
Clearly, getting the facts right should be the first order of business here. But that is very difficult given the pressure that is being applied to Snowden and those aiding him -- and will be even more so with the new frigid relations between Russia and the United States.]