A Kansas congressman has asked the organizers of the South by Southwest interactive, music and film festival to disinvite National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden from the highly publicized event beginning Friday in Austin, Texas.
Conference organizers invited Snowden to speak on privacy, surveillance and online monitoring in the U.S. following his almost-yearlong leaks of classified NSA domestic Internet and phone bulk data collection programs.
“I Share your passion for educating the American public on the intersection of civil liberties and technology, but I am deeply troubled to learn that you have invited Edward Snowden to address SXSW,” Republican Rep. Mike Pompeo wrote in a letter to conference organizers Thursday.
“Certainly an organization of your caliber can attract experts on these topics with knowledge superior to a man [that] was hired as a systems administrator and whose 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,” Pompeo said.
The representative from Kansas’ fourth congressional district told organizers that inviting the former NSA contractor “encourages the very lawlessness he exhibited,” and that “he and his media enablers” have distorted the truth of the programs by publishing the leaks and making them available to the general public.
“The release of these documents undermines the very fairness and freedom that SXSW and the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] purport to foster,” Pompeo said. “I strongly urge you to withdraw this invitation.”
The conference announced Tuesday that Snowden had agreed to join former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald and ACLU Chief Technologist Christopher Soghoian on a panel discussing technology and the culture of surveillance via live video link from Russia.
This will be Snowden’s ”first conversation in front of an audience since his disclosures began making global headlines last year,” an ACLU press release states.