Surveillance: Snowden NSA Controversy

Welcome to Twitter, Mr. Snowden! Here Are Some Questions

By Benjamin Wittes
Wednesday, September 30, 2015, 12:33 PM

Edward Snowden has had a triumphal entry to Twitter. It's been barely 24 hours since news that he was on the social media site broke, and he's already got more than a million followers. His ratio of followers-to-actual-tweets, 1.05 million:7, must be among the highest on Twitter.

So far, Snowden has not done much with his Twitter account. He's followed @NSAGov—the only account he's followed. He's exchanged greetings with astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson. And he's humble-bragged about his new-found fame:

So here's the question: What more is Snowden going to do with this giant megaphone?

I have a modest suggestion as to the answer to that question: Snowden might consider using Twitter to engage with his critics.

So far, Snowden has kept his public livestreamed appearances before mostly friendly audiences. It's fair to predict that the overwhelming bulk of those who have followed him on Twitter are friendly as well. Judging by the tweets directed his way, many are more than friendly. Words like adoring and fawning come to mind.

But Twitter offers Snowden, as it offers us all, an opportunity to get out of the bubbles in which we live and engage in the context of a hierarchically flat environment with those who disagree with us. Will Snowden do that? Will he answer serious questions directed his way, in a respectful fashion, by people who don't necessarily approve of his behavior and conduct or agree with his views of surveillance?

I think we should find out.

That's why I've started posting questions for him on Twitter under the hashtag #LetsAskSnowden. I encourage other Twitter users to use this hashtag as well to ask Snowden questions he might not receive from the audiences to which he regularly speaks. I do not, I wish to emphasize, encourage anyone to use it to hurl bile his way, issue denunciations, or pose rhetorical questions that are really just another way of venting political spleen. There's enough of that in the world. The goal, rather, is to collect a serious set of questions for the fugitive whistleblower, give him a chance to address them in public, and to note both the answers he provides and the questions he chooses not to address. If Snowden wishes to address questions at greater-than-Twitter-length, Lawfare would be happy to publish his responses.

Here are four questions I have posed by way of kicking off the conversation.