From The Guardian‘s interview with whistleblower Edward Snowden:

Q: Is it possible to put security in place to protect against state surveillance?

A: “You are not even aware of what is possible. The extent of their capabilities is horrifying. We can plant bugs in machines. Once you go on the network, I can identify your machine. You will never be safe whatever protections you put in place.”

Is that true, or is this a self-aggrandizing 29-year-old mouthing off? I’m inclined to trust the 29-year-old. Watch the video, don’t just read the selective transcript. He claims — claims — to have had the power to eavesdrop on anybody.

But what terrible judgment to go to communist China, expecting protection, absent a formal defection! Really, if you’re protesting the total surveillance state, is taking refuge in China really wise? Really? What the hell could Snowden have been thinking? His ideas that China isn’t an enemy of the US because our peoples aren’t at war, and that he will be safe in Hong Kong, are breathtakingly naive.

That said, the video interview is compelling. He defends his action by saying that you could be comfortable watching the “architecture of oppression” grow, and not protesting, not doing anything, accepting that it’s necessary. But, he says, when you think about how the surveillance capabilities are growing “by orders of magnitude,” and you see how this is likely to end up in another generation or two, the risk of going public may seem worth taking.

Glenn Greenwald asks Snowden why anyone who isn’t up to no good should worry about this. Snowden says because even if you aren’t doing anything wrong, you are being recorded — and every year, the ability of the government to store information grows massively. If, in the future, they suspect you of something, they can go back through all the information they have stored about you, pull out conversations you’ve had with friends, anything they want, to create a portrait of you that suits their ends.

All this is nearly electrifying. The thing that puzzles me, however, is his claim that if he wanted to have really hurt the US, he could have exposed the names of every employee of the NSA, and the locations of the entire global US intelligence network. Do they really let 29-year-olds have access to that kind of information? Snowden does not come off as shifty, but that seems hard to believe.