Snowden’s appearance: No recording allowed


Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden is displayed on the television screens in a media center in Moscow as he asks a question to Russian President Vladimir Putin during the Russian president’s live question-answer conference in Moscow, April 17, 2014.  (EPA/Yuri Kochetkov)

Edward Snowden, the poster child for truth telling, answered questions live, but the audience was instructed not to record them.

Irony, much?

That was the scene at an awards ceremony held at the National Press Club this week where a watchdog group that decries government secrecy passed along this message from Snowden’s lawyer: No digital recording of Snowden’s virtual appearance.

An attendee at the event tells the Loop the room was packed to see Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor and everyone’s favorite whistleblower, accept the Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling from an undisclosed location in Russia. His remarks, the source says, were “poignant and moving.”

But during a question and answer session, Danielle Brian, the executive director of the Project on Government Oversight and emcee of the event, took the microphone and told the crowd, “I‘m sorry to interrupt just for a second but I want to make it clear that no one can be recording.  There had been an understanding with the media but others in the room have iPhones…”

Mother Jones, known for releasing secret audio (47 percent, anyone?) did not heed this warning, and posted audio of Snowden’s remarks on its Web site. The reporter notes at the end of his story, “At one point during Snowden’s appearance, an organizer of the event asked the audience not to record him—but this was near the end of his remarks, and numerous people in the audience were holding up smart phones and recording devices.”

After this post published, Joe Newman, spokesman at POGO, reached out to clarify that the no recording rule came from Snowden’s legal team. “Danielle, as emcee, simply passed the message along,” he said. The award organizers, The Nation Institute and The Fertel Foundation, made the arrangements.

To layer on the irony, the freedom-loving Russian government did not seem to have any problem with Snowden being recorded when he asked Russian President Vladimir Putin a question on Russian TV.

UPDATE: After we reported on this most odd situation, Taya Kitman, executive director and CEO of The Nation Institute, said they got permission to make public Snowden’s recorded remarks.

“Mr. Snowden’s attorneys told organizers that they preferred that the event not be streamed or recorded, and that is why the MC was asked to make that statement. But now that they see the demand, the audio and video will be posted on the Nation Institute’s website,” Kitman said in an e-mailed statement to the Loop.

Colby Itkowitz is a national reporter for In The Loop.
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Colby Itkowitz · May 1