Nicole MacDowell Staff Writer @MusicalNikki13The infamous NSA fugitive Edward Snowden made an appearance at the South By Southwest Interactive Festival (SXSW) on March 10 via videoconference from Russia to urge American citizens to stop allowing the government to access private information. Snowden fled the country last year after releasing thousands of classified documents to the public, exposing the National Security Agency’s secret phone taps on the American public. He is currently in Russia on asylum from the government, and is currently facing felony espionage as well as felony theft of government. When Snowden was asked if he would leak information again, he told the audience in Austin, Texas: “Absolutely. Regardless of what happens to me, this is something we had a right to.” He also stated that he “took an oath to support and defend the Constitution. And I saw the Constitution was being violated on a massive scale”, which is what made him expose the files. He addressed the software developers in attendance to create private servers for customers to avoid the government gaining access to personal data collected through third-party sites. His conference also urged Americans to encrypt their files and protect their web browsers from possible government spying. Snowden was also asked about the difference between the government watching our computers and private internet companies watching and he responded that he felt government surveillance is more insidious because “the government has the ability to deprive you of rights. They can jail you". His speech, while met with mixed emotions from attendees, sparked controversy amongst a Kansas Congressman who felt that Snowden didn’t have the appropriate authority to speak about the subject. Representative Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas) wrote an open letter to the SXSW organizers, stating: “Snowden's "only apparent qualification ... is his willingness to steal from his own government and then flee to that beacon of First Amendment freedoms, the Russia of Vladimir Putin." The organizers never responded.
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