Edward Snowden: Gay marriage movement shows why governments shouldn’t have ‘perfect surveillance’

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Whistleblower Edward Snowden has cited lobbyists for same-sex marriage as an example of why governments shouldn’t have too much control over surveillance.

Mr Snowden is a former computer analyst who leaked details of NSA surveillance programmes – and currently lives in Russia, after being granted asylum in 2013.

The former data specialist cited the early gay rights movement as an example of a reform that would be not possible under a government with ‘perfect surveillance’.

He said in a Reddit Q&A session: “We should remember that governments don’t often reform themselves.

“One of the arguments in a book I read recently… is that perfect enforcement of the law sounds like a good thing, but that may not always be the case. The end of crime sounds pretty compelling, right, so how can that be?

“When we look back on history, the progress of Western civilization and human rights is actually founded on the violation of law.

“America was of course born out of a violent revolution that was an outrageous treason against the crown and established order of the day.

“History shows that the righting of historical wrongs is often born from acts of unrepentant criminality. Slavery. The protection of persecuted Jews.

“But even on less extremist topics, we can find similar examples. How about the prohibition of alcohol? Gay marriage? Marijuana?

“Where would we be today if the government, enjoying powers of perfect surveillance and enforcement, had – entirely within the law – rounded up, imprisoned, and shamed all of these lawbreakers?

“Ultimately, if people lose their willingness to recognise that there are times in our history when legality becomes distinct from morality, we aren’t just ceding control of our rights to government, but our agency in determing thour [sic] futures.”

Mr Snowden rarely speaks out on matters sensitive to Russia, and so his mention of same-sex marriage is surprising – given the state’s strong opposition to gay rights and ‘gay propaganda’ laws.