In a televised Christmas address to millions of viewers, National Security Agency details leaker Edward Snowden gave out something of a Christmas message to the world, through a speech that called for the end of mass surveillance that millions are subjected to in both the United States and abroad.
"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," the former NSA contractor said in Channel 4's annual Alternative Christmas Message to British viewers. The message follows Queen Elizabeth II's traditional Christmas address.
Whistleblower Snowden is living in Russia on a temporary one-year visa, after being on the run earlier this year, days before leaking thousands of documents to news organizations that revealed NSA's secret surveillance. He is wanted in the United States on charges of espionage.
Snowden's brief message on Wednesday alleged that the kind of surveillance purported in George Orwell's novel "1984" are "nothing compared to what we have available today."
Orwell's novel, released in 1949, had visualized a world of continuous war, omnipresent and omnipotent government surveillance and public mind control dictated by a dreaded political system.
"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," Snowden said.
"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," he added.
Channel 4's alternative address tradition began in 1993. In the past, it has included address from people including a survivor of the 11 September 2001 attack; Mohmoud Ahmadinejad, then the Iranian president; Ali G, a character played by comedian Sacha Baron Cohen were also among those who addressed viewers in the program. In 2004, Marge, a fictional main character in American animated sitcom "The Simpsons" gave the address.