Edward Snowden

Surveillance worse than George Orwell's 1984, warns Edward Snowden

NSA leaker invokes Orwell's novel in TV message to Britons from Russian bolthole

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 December, 2013, 12:23pm
UPDATED : Friday, 27 December, 2013, 2:33am

National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden invoked George Orwell and warned of the dangers of unchecked government surveillance in a televised Christmas message to the British people that reflected his growing willingness to take a public role in the debate he ignited.

I already won. Everything that I had been trying to do was validated

The brief video marked Snowden's first television appearance since he fled the United States and arrived in Moscow via Hong Kong in June. It came days after The Washington Post published an extensive account of Snowden's comments during more than 14 hours of interviews.

Speaking directly into the camera, Snowden said government surveillance methods far surpassed those described in Orwell's dystopic novel 1984.

"The types of collection in the book - microphones and video cameras, TVs that watch us - are nothing compared to what we have today. We have sensors in our pockets that track us everywhere we go. Think about what this means for the privacy of the average person," he said.

Video: An excerpt of Snowden's Christmas message

In The Post interview, Snowden said he had succeeded in spawning the debate he sought by bringing the extent of surveillance by the US and British governments to light. "The mission's already accomplished," he said. "I already won. As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated. Because, remember, I didn't want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself."

Snowden echoed those sentiments on Wednesday, saying he sees an opportunity to "find a better balance, end mass surveillance and remind the government that if it really wants to know how we feel, asking is always cheaper than spying".

Snowden, a 30-year-old former NSA contractor, has been accused by authorities in the US and Britain of jeopardising security on both sides of the Atlantic by divulging vital information about programmes used to spy on hostile governments and would-be terrorists.

Snowden, who is living under temporary asylum in Russia, had until this week kept a low profile there, referring to himself in The Post interview as an "indoor cat".