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Former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden says the U.S. “needs a watchdog that watches Congress.”

Snowden took the stage at South by Southwest (remotely) today for his first live video appearance. During the video call, which went through seven different proxies, Snowden claimed that the NSA is setting fire to the future of the Internet:

“The NSA, this sort of global mass surveilance, they’re setting fire to the future of the Internet. And the people who are in this room now, you guys, are all the firefighters.”

“The key factor is accountability. We can’t have officials like James Clapper that can lie to everyone in the country and face no criticism.”

Snowden made clear during the conversation that everyday people need encryption tools that are more approachable. He also discussed the importance of having trusted public figures serve as watchdogs for public interest.

Speaking alongside American Civil Liberties Union principal technologist Christopher Soghoian, Snowden’s discussion targeted the impact of the NSA’s spying policies on the tech community.

“As a country we have basically been left to let citizens defend themselves, and the government has been hording information for itself,” said Soghoiian, adding that leaked information shows that the NSA is actively compromising our digital services.

Snowden’s appearance at the conference is not without controversy. U.S. House of Representatives member Mike Pompeo (R-Ka.) requested the panel’s cancellation because it “undermines the very fairness and freedom that SXSW and the ACLU purport to foster.”

You can watch the live stream here.

Tom Cheredar contributed to this report.


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