Edward Snowden on Saturday said he is “confident” mass surveillance programs employed by U.S. federal agencies will be found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
Last year, review panels questioned the lack of oversight and effectiveness of the operations and a federal court said the National Security Agency's daily collection of phone records likely violated the Fourth Amendment, which protects Americans from illegal searches.
“It will go to the Supreme Court, and I’m confident that the Supreme Court will agree that these programs went too far,” he said during a web chat with the New Yorker.
Intelligence officials have decried ending the program, arguing that it is implemented with safeguards and is necessary for domestic security because it aides investigations into potential terrorist attacks.
Snowden rebuked those claims, mentioning an NSA inspector general’s report that found at least a dozen agents using the program to spy on former spouses or lovers.
“That’s a felony,” he said. “However, none of them were prosecuted because it’s considered that the value of the programs was greater than the interest of justice and punishing people.”
He also took aim at arguments by intelligence officials, including FBI director James Comey, that criticized new privacy technology installed on phones made by Apple and Google.
“For law enforcement agencies to complain and say that ‘We’re afraid we’re not going to be able to gather information in our investigations’ is not just ridiculous, but it’s actually offensive,” he said.
“Encryption is not something that prevents the investigation – the properly authorized law enforcement investigation” of a criminal, he said, adding that it is still possible for law enforcement to obtaining a warrant to crack into the encrypted systems.
In private, he said, law enforcement calls “today the ‘golden age of signals intelligence.’ They say that we have more access to more information more easily than we ever have before.”
Last month, Apple released its latest mobile operating system, iOS 8, and said that the technology would make it impossible to unlock iPhones or iPads for police, even with a warrant. Google is moving toward a similar feature.
Snowden seemed to push back against the idea of total security, saying that Americans should be pushing for reforms to the surveillance systems.
“Your phone can be encrypted all day long, but it’s just a gateway into a global network that’s being comprehensively – and sometimes unlawfully – monitored,” he said.