Lawmaker Urges SXSW Cancel Edward Snowden Talk

Congressman Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas), a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, has urged organizers of SXSW to cancel its planned Edward Snowden talk.

Snowden will speak (via videoconference) at SXSW Interactive on Monday as part of a conversation with Christopher Soghoian, the ACLU’s principal technologist. This session will be moderated by Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy & Technology Project and Edward Snowden’s legal advisor. The panel, “A Virtual Conversation with Edward Snowden,” will focus on the impact of the NSA spying revelations and how technology can be used to protect privacy.

Pompeo wrote the organizers of SXSW asking them to rescind their invitation to the NSA whistleblower. Here are excepts from his letter below:

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 on privacy, surveillance, and online monitoring in the United States. Certainly an organization of your caliber can attract experts on these topics with knowledge superior to a man who 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. 

Mr. Snowden’s appearance would stamp the imprimatur of your fine organization on a man who ill deserves such accolades. Rewarding Mr. Snowden’s behavior in this way encourages the very lawlessness he exhibited. Such lawlessness—and the ongoing intentional distortion of truth that he and his media enablers have engaged in since the release of these documents—undermines the very fairness and freedom that SXSW and the ACLU purport to foster. I strongly urge you to withdraw this invitation.

Meanwhile, earlier today, another controversial fugitive, Julian Assange, addressed SXSW via Skype from the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he has been holed up to avoid extradition to Sweden on various criminal charges.

“I am able to exist in a situation which is every national security reporters dream, which is a land without police,” he told the audience of thousands. “It is a no man’s land, as far as coercion is concerned.”

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