World’s most wanted man to address Israeli conference

Edward Snowden, responsible for leaking some of America’s most closely guarded secrets, will address his audience via video from his place of asylum in Russia.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Edward Snowden, who revealed the prevalence of American intelligence’s mass electronic surveillance of private individuals and governmental officials both inside the US and abroad, and subsequently was charged with espionage after finding asylum in Russia, will address an Israeli conference next month via video.

The former CIA employee and computer systems contractor for the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA) is considered one of the world’s most wanted men. He has addressed several conferences about government surveillance versus right to privacy since finding safety in Moscow in 2013 after making off with over a million classified documents, some of which he parceled out to several journalists in what became known as Wikileaks.

This will be the first time he speaks at an Israeli event. The conference is being organized by an Israeli media strategy and consultancy firm, OH! Orenstein Hoshen, which stated that Israeli security officials, including the military censor, were consulted before they invited their slate of speakers.

The company’s joint heads, Hedan Orenstein and Itamar Hoshen, told Ynet why they chose Snowden.

“These days, when we are seriously troubled by questions of privacy and securing our personal information, we don’t know of many public debates more worthy than this, nor many speakers who have paid such a high price for the stand that they took.” They stressed that this did not mean they were taking a stand or expressing support for his actions.

Discussion to be held with closed audience

Snowden is expected to discuss Israel-related issues with a closed audience of senior personages through a secure video-conferencing system. Ram Ben-Barak, former director general of both the Ministry of Intelligence Services and the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, will be his chief interlocutor. Ben-Barak is uniquely suited to respond on such issues as electronic surveillance since he is also a former deputy head of the Mossad who led a division responsible for collecting intelligence via electronic means.

Snowden was responsible for the publication through WikiLeaks of some sensitive information about Israeli intelligence and officials that had been collected by the NSA for well over a decade, which embarrassed the country’s leaders. This included details concerning a joint UK-US intelligence program that regularly hacked into Israeli military jets’ cockpit cameras and drones’ electronic feeds and the interception of communications of the prime minister and other top officials.

At least one reason behind such spying by a friendly country, given in one memo released in 2016, remains relevant today. “Our ability to collect and track and report this activity [an Israeli drone intercept] is important for the initial detection and tip-off for any potential pre-emptive or retaliatory strike against Iran,” the memo said.

Other documents revealed the deep cooperative efforts between the allies, such as raw signals intelligence sharing and help spying on Israel’s enemies, including Iran and Syria, as well as other countries in the Middle East, North Africa and even Muslim-majority countries in the former Soviet Union and southeast Asia.