Earlier this week Edward Snowdon gave a talk with a jammed packed auditorium on McGill University campus in Montreal. I say "with" rather than "to" because it was an interactive video-conference. There was a capacity crowd of 600 with another estimated 2,000 waiting outside. Thankfully someone decided to break the rules and live streamed it on You Tube. How Snowdon can you get?
The event was blighted with glitches: technical troubles and a strike by McGill support staff that delayed the evening. Snowdon said it was 4 a.m. in Moscow but that he appreciated people's patience. Ultimately, he waved aside the formal part of his presentation with a refreshingly frank, "nobody likes lectures so let's get down to the Q&A portion".
The timing for the talk could not have been more opportune. He addressed the instance of the Quebec reporter whose phone was allegedly hacked by the Securité du Quebec. He urged the audience to read the materials handed out by McGill strikers. And, when asked about the American elections for his opinion Snowdon responded that the important thing to remember was that it was a voter's obligation to be informed and make a private choice.
Privacy is of course the cornerstone of Snowdon's experience and opinions. He maintains that privacy is what is central to our democratic rights. So, this is what we've come to expect from him. However, I found it interesting how deftly he sidestepped the whole Clinton versus Trump issue and did not get bogged down in personalities. I was also intrigued to hear him say that compared to the U.S.A., the U.K. and Australia, Canada had the weakest oversight of its intelligence gathering. That's pretty frightening.