The former NSA computer analyst, now living in asylum in Moscow, said he is designing an encryption system to protect the confidential information of journalists, doctors, lawyers, and others with professional obligations of confidentiality to their clients.
"An unfortunate side effect of the development of all these new surveillance technologies is that the work of journalism has become immeasurably harder than it ever has been in the past," Snowden said in a lengthy interview with the British paper The Guardian. "Journalists have to be particularly conscious about any sort of network signalling, any sort of connection, any sort of licence-plate reading device that they pass on their way to a meeting point, any place they use their credit card, any place they take their phone, any email contact they have with the source because that very first contact, before encrypted communications are established, is enough to give it all away."
Electronic communications of doctors, lawyers, accountants, and even clergy also require protection in this age of digital surveillance, Snowden said. "If we confess something to our priest inside a church that would be private, but is it any different if we send our pastor a private email confessing a crisis that we have in our life?"
Snowden's life has been shrouded in secrecy since he fled the United States in June of last year, after delivering to The Guardian thousands of classified documents revealing the extent of NSA surveillance in the United States, including the daily collection of billions of telephone records, e-mails, and other electronic communications.
He went first to Hong Kong, then to Moscow, where he was given temporary asylum last July 31. U.S. officials have unsuccessfully sought his extradition to the United States, where he is wanted on charges of espionage and theft of government documents. His passport has been revoked and Russian journalist Andrei Soldatov, who has written extensively about the F.S.B., successor to the Soviet KGB, said in an interview with the New York Times last fall that Russian intelligence had Snowden under close surveillance. "He's actually surrounded by these people," Soldatov said.
Snowden's lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, said at the time that Snowden had agreed to take a job with one of Russia's major Internet companies. He did not name the company or discuss other details of his client's life in exile "because the level of threat from the U.S. government structures is still very high," he told the Times in a telephone interview. Snowden told The Guardian he is seeking foundation money for his encryption project.
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