Speaking from his self-induced exile somewhere in Russia Tuesday night, fugitive and former National Security Agency (NSA) employee Edward Snowden criticized President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey.
In a video link-up with three Canadian universities in the provinces of Alberta and Manitoba, Snowden described Comey’s firing as part of a “creeping disrespect for the public and their rights.”
He questioned the timing of the firing since Comey was in charge of an investigation into the Trump administration’s alleged ties with Russia.
“This calls into question our commitment to the rule of law,” Snowden said.
“It’s not to say that what the president has done is illegal, but we should not lose sight of the fact that … the president of the United States has just fired the man in charge of a criminal investigation into the actions of his administration and his associates.”
Snowden spoke to the students at the University of Lethbridge, University of Winnipeg and Brandon University for 40 minutes, after which he answered questions. He was also critical of surveillance laws in the United Kingdom and Russia and cited Canada for allowing the Montreal police to monitor the iPhone of journalist Patrick Lagace for a period of several months in order to track his communication with sources.
The self-proclaimed surveillance expert, who is wanted by the FBI for espionage, suggested the technology available to monitor the public is outstripping the the legal protection that the public has to privacy. Snowden urged his audience of students and professors to fight for privacy rights: “privacy, when we think about these things, is the fountainhead from which all other rights derive,” he said.
“For example, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, the right to due process, to be presumed innocent until proven guilty and so on.”
Snowden left the NSA in 2013 when he revealed the top secret operations of the agency and described how it gathered information on millions of people through online surveillance.
Though some consider Snowden a whistleblower, the U.S. government sees him as a fugitive who has been charged with espionage and could get 30 years in jail if he is caught, put on trial and convicted.
The universities involved in Tuesday night’s video link are not revealing details at this time as to who initiated contact for Snowden’s presentation.