Former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden has emerged from his Russian exile in the form of a remotely-controlled robot to promise more sensational revelations about US spying programs.
The fugitive’s face appeared on a screen as he manoeuvred the wheeled android around a stage at the TED gathering, addressing an audience in Vancouver without ever leaving his secret hideaway.
“There are absolutely more revelations to come,” he said.
“Some of the most important reporting to be done is yet to come.”
Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor who has been charged in the United States with espionage, dismissed the public debate about whether he is a heroic whistleblower or traitor.
Instead, he used the conference organised by educational non-profit organisation TED (“Technology Entertainment Design”), to call for people worldwide to fight for privacy and internet freedom.
Internet creator Tim Berners-Lee briefly joined Snowden’s interview with TED curator Chris Anderson, and came down in the hero camp.
When Anderson posed the question to the TED audience – known for famous, innovative, and influential attendees – the idea that Snowden was a force for good met with applause.
“Hero patriot or traitor; I would say I am an American citizen just like anyone else,” Snowden said.
“What really matters here is the kind of government we want; the kind of internet we want.”
He said he was inspired to pass a huge trove of NSA files to reporters when he saw US spying tactics going too far and intruding into the private data of millions of internet and telephone customers.
Snowden argued that, if he had gone to the US Congress with his concerns, he would have risked being “buried along with the information”.
Snowden instead urged the “adversarial press” to challenge government and ignite public debate “without putting national security at risk”.