Edward Snowden, a fugitive and former U.S. National Security Agency contractor who leaked information from the agency in 2013, warned Saturday that all people in Japan are subjected to mass surveillance initiated by the U.S. government.
At the time, he was an employee with computer giant Dell Inc. contracted out to the NSA, where he worked on a surveillance program at the U.S.’s Yokota airbase in Fussa, Tokyo.
Snowden made the comments via video conferencing from Russia, where he resides to avoid U.S. criminal prosecution, during a symposium Saturday in Tokyo on surveillance in contemporary society.
Officially known as the Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets, which went into effect in 2014, the law gives ministries and agencies discretion to classify information in areas such as defense, counterterrorism and diplomacy as state secrets.
In an interview with the weekly magazine Sunday Mainichi in its Tuesday edition, Snowden said the enactment of the controversial law was requested and designed by the U.S. government to facilitate the NSA’s espionage activities in Japan.
To counter the government surveillance and control of information, Snowden called for solidarity in the media.
“The purpose of a free press in open society is not to simply write down what the government wants to say,” but to actively challenge its authority, he said.