The NSA will be getting a big lump of coal in its stocking this year, thanks to national security whistleblower Edward Snowden — who's going to give a televised address to the world on Christmas Day.
The short film will be broadcast by U.K. television network Channel 4, which has shown alternatives to the Queen's Christmas address for two decades. The first TV appearance Snowden has made since arriving in Moscow ahead of hot pursuit by Western authorities, it will be broadcast at 4:15 p.m.
In excepts released by Channel 4, Snowden compared the burgeoning global surveillance apparatus to the dystopian world of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.
"The types of collection in the book — microphones and video cameras, TVs that watch us — are nothing compared to what we have available today."
"We have sensors in our pockets that track us everywhere we go. Think about what this means for the privacy of the average person."
"A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all. They'll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves an unrecorded, unanalyzed thought. And that's a problem because privacy matters; privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be."
Snowden said that a recent review of the NSA which recommended that the agency be stripped of its powers to collect bulk phone records and insert backdoors into various internet networks, as well as a federal ruling that the NSA's phone records collection program was likely illegal, reinforced his point.
"The conversation occurring today will determine the amount of trust we can place both in the technology that surrounds us and the government that regulates it. Together we can find a better balance, end mass surveillance and remind the government that if it really wants to know how we feel, asking is always cheaper than spying."
Snowden's Christmas address is just the latest part of the debate over privacy and surveillance he ignited by releasing hundreds of thousands of leaked records from the NSA. In a recent interview with The Washington Post, he commented:
"For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished."
"I already won. As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated. Because, remember, I didn't want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself."
"All I wanted was for the public to be able to have a say in how they are governed."
In that same interview, he denied claims that he betrayed the United States by leaking sensitive intel.
"There is no evidence at all for the claim that I have loyalties to Russia or China or any country other than the United States. I have no relationship with the Russian government. I have not entered into any agreements with them."
"If I defected at all, I defected from the government to the public."
The slot for Snowden's Christmas address is typically reserved for a provocative or counter-cultural figure. In 2008, Channel 4 controversially gave the airtime to Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In 1999 and 2004, the slot respectively went to Ali G and Marge Simpson.