American surveillance whistle-blower Edward Snowden is to address an Israeli audience for the first time next month at an invite-only event.
Snowden is currently a fugitive who worked at both the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and National Security Agency (NSA) before leaving for Hong Kong then Russia in 2013 in order to spill the beans on US eavesdropping.
He will speak to the audience via a secure video-link on 6 November, with the former deputy chief of Mossad, Ram Ben Barak, responding to his comments. Barak was in charge of the ‘Keshet’ signals intelligence unit of the famed spy service.
Snowden made off with millions of classified electronic documents detailing covert US action around the world, but released only those pertaining to the widespread interception and collection of personal communications, revelations which led Western governments to revisit policies in the field.
Most analysts assume he has information relating to US spying in relation to Israel and Israelis abroad, and he has in the past said: “There definitely remain stories relating to the Middle East and Israel.”
The event was engineered by the ‘OH! Orenstein Hoshen’ media consultancy, founded by Hedan Orenstein and Itamar Hoshen, who described “a process lasting several months,” and they said their clients’ work often touches on technology and the law, “exactly the fields in which Snowden is involved”.
Snowden revealed how the US and the UK – through the government’s GCHQ listening centre – were scooping up data about the phone and internet activity of citizens around the world, for instance by tapping sea-floor internet cables. He has since become a campaigner for privacy rights.
“His actions have aroused intense arguments on the matter of whether the NSA’s ultra-advanced surveillance programs are an illegal invasion of the privacy of tens of millions of US citizens, in contravention of the US constitution, or a legitimate tool in the struggle against terror and homeland security,” the pair said.
“As we are currently concerned about difficult questions regarding privacy and security of our personal data, we do not know of many such important public debates or talks about the high price paid so far on the stand being taken.”