Fugitive and whistle-blower Edward Snowden to speak from Russia at SXSW

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Edward Snowden. Photo courtesy The Guardian

From Josh Rubin

AUSTIN, Texas (CNN) — Fugitive National Security Agency whistle-blower Edward Snowden will speak remotely from Russia on Monday at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival, according to the festival.

Snowden, who is unable to return to the United States for fear of arrest, will chat via teleconference with Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project.

“The conversation will be focused on the impact of the NSA’s spying efforts on the technology community and the ways in which technology can help to protect us from mass surveillance,” an SXSW news release says.

Audience members will be allowed to ask questions, and The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit media organization, intends to livestream the session.

Privacy and government surveillance is a subplot of SXSW Interactive’s programming this year, with other slated speakers to include journalist and civil liberties lawyer Glenn Greenwald as well as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who was granted diplomatic asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London after Sweden sought to question him in connection with a sexual assault investigation.

Snowden, a former CIA employee and NSA contractor who fled the United States after leaking details of the American government’s spy programs, was granted temporary asylum in Russia last year.

He faces felony charges of espionage and theft of government property in the United States, and has said he won’t return until the U.S. changes its whistle-blower-protection laws.

“Surveillance and online privacy look to be one of the biggest topics of conversation at the 2014 SXSW Interactive Festival,” a festival statement says. “As organizers, SXSW agrees that a healthy debate with regards to the limits of surveillance is vital to the future of the online ecosystem.”

SXSW annually hosts film, music and interactive festivals, drawing tens of thousands of attendees to Austin. This year’s 10-day affair begins Friday.

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