Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower in exile, spoke to the SXSW Interactive conference in Austin, Texas today. He appeared via a choppy videostream which was said to be routed through seven proxy servers. Joining the conversation in person were the ACLU’s Ben Wizner and Christopher Soghoian.
As the talk began, the atmosphere in the room itself was enlightening. I overheard many people joking, with a touch of discomfort, about whether they were now on an NSA list for attending, about how many Feds might be in the audience. “Can they arrest a few thousand of us on the way out?” quipped a woman seated next to me. In a sense, most of the tech geeks around me seemed to consider themselves dissidents.
The event was not without controversy. As the ACLU panelists reminded us, in the days leading up to the panel Kansas Representative Mike Pompeo made vague threats against SXSW and told them to cancel the Snowden speech.