Snowden “World Exclusive”

You may know that notorious whistle-blower Edward Snowden conducted an interview last Friday in which he responded to questions submitted to him on Twitter. Or you may not: what a surprise, any coverage of that was hard-to-find on the main US Internet media outlets.

That’s not the case in Germany, where they just LOVE Edward Snowden and can’t get enough of his doings and pronouncements. In fact, German Snowden-mania went on to reach a peak of sorts shortly thereafter.

OK, tief in die Nacht, or “deep into the night”: the exclusive Snowden interview (filmed in Moscow, of course) shown in the name of the ARD, which is the German national association of public broadcasters, did start at 23.00 hours on a Sunday night. Yet, as this piece in the Süddeutsche Zeitung describes, executives at Germany’s first public television channel pulled out all the stops to ensure a sizeable audience, such as scheduling it in the period after the Sunday evening news and just after a six-person panel-discussion show at which Snowdon (“Hero or Traitor?” – with a former US Ambassador to Germany present to argue for the latter) was topic #1.

That having been accomplished – and viewer figures were around 2 million – afterwards they have turned rather protective of their vaunted “world exclusive.” If you click through the tweet to go to the SZ article, you immediately see the YouTube video of the interview, but you can’t watch it (nor on YouTube itself) because the ARD has taken care to restrict it geographically, likely only to viewers in Germany.

On the other hand, this SZ article provides a link to a transcript of the interview (only in German, of course), and the piece itself is itself a précis: it summaries what it views as the highpoints, eleven of them.

Among those eleven, there’s really not much there that is new. For example, Snowden expresses fears for his life – yet also maintains that he still sleeps fine at night. Yes, he would like to return to the US, except: “It’s noteworthy that the President says that I should account for my actions in front of a court, even when he knows that such a trial would just be a show-trial.” And yes, Germany, the NSA spies on you all and your politicians as well, big time, and not just Chancellor Merkel. In fact, he claims that there has been close cooperation in the past between the NSA and the BND, which is the German equivalent to the CIA. And no, he was not and is not operating as a spy for Russia or any other country.

It’s true that there was a new tidbit here about Snowdon trying to join the US Special Forces in 2004 to serve in Iraq, but then washing out of SF training due to a broken leg. (That training is rough, as everyone knows.) But there are far more other goodies buried outside this article, in that interview transcript. For example, Snowden reveals the existence of the “Five Eyes Alliance” (translated by me from Five Eyes Bündnis), which was an arrangement set up just after World War II by the victorious nations apparently aiming for a long-lived English-language world hegemony: the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The idea here was that their intelligence agencies would share information and costs for the building of a common intelligence infrastructure, which, Snowden remarks, “did not hold to the laws of their own countries.”

That’s in the transcript, as I say: you can always throw that text into Google and sift through what comes out the other side. I am just wondering when, if ever, the ARD will realize the considerable interest in this interview from outside the German-speaking world – are they trying for a German-language world hegemony? – and decide at least to make the YouTube video (conversation in English) available more widely.

UPDATE: Information wants to be free! Surely the ARD remembers that, and that, on the Internet, no wish for information goes unfulfilled for long. Juan Cole, by way of some organization called LiveLeak, provides us with the video of that Snowden interview here.

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