Snowden: I wish I had spoken sooner

Snowden: I wish I had spoken sooner
© Getty Images

Given the chance to do it all over again, Edward Snowden says he would have leaked his vast trove of top-secret documents earlier.  

“Had I come forward a little sooner, these programs would have been a little less entrenched, and those abusing them would have felt a little less familiar with and accustomed to the exercise of those powers,” Snowden said in a conversation on Reddit on Monday.


“Once you grant the government some new power or authority, it becomes exponentially more difficult to roll it back,” he added.

“Regardless of how little value a program or power has been shown to have... once it's a sunk cost, once dollars and reputations have been invested in it, it's hard to peel that back,” he said, while using the example of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) bulk records collection about Americans’ phone calls. 

Snowden’s interaction on Monday came less than 24 hours after “Citizenfour” — the documentary film in which he starred — won an Academy Award for best documentary.

Oscars host Neil Patrick Harris made a joke about Snowden after the award was announced on Sunday evening, noting that the former government contractor “could not be here tonight for some treason.” 

Snowden, who has been living in Russia on temporary asylum for the last year and a half while fleeing espionage charges in the U.S.,  said that he laughed at the line.

“My perspective is if you're not willing to be called a few names to help out your country, you don't care enough,” he said.

Despite the attention on the NSA in the nearly two years since Snowden fled the U.S. in the summer of 2013, Congress has yet to pass major substantive reforms to the spy agency, and Obama administration has made only some minor unilateral changes.

Snowden — who participated in the Reddit chat along with journalist Glenn Greenwald and “Citizenfour” director Laura Poitras — pushed back against the notion that the leaks had all be in vain.

“[M]any of the changes that are happening are invisible because they're happening at the engineering level,” he said. As evidence, Snowden pointed to moves by Apple and Google to automatically encrypt and protect people’s data from the prying eyes of the government spies and foreign hackers alike.