The SXSW festival plays hosts to all kinds of provocative panels on technology but Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) thinks inviting Edward Snowden to talk is taking things a step too far.
Snowden is scheduled to speak via webcast on Monday from his location in Russia, where he eventually fled after leaking thousands of secret NSA documents to the press. In a letter to the SXSW organization, Pompeo asks that they rescind that invitation to Snowden.
“Certainly an organization of your caliber can attract experts on these topics with knowledge superior to a man who was hired as a systems administrator and whose only apparent qualification is his willingness to steal from his own government and then flee to that beacon of First Amendment freedoms, the Russia of Vladimir Putin,” Pompeo wrote in the open letter. “Mr. Snowden’s appearance would stamp the imprimatur of your fine organization on a man who ill deserves such accolades.”
Calling Snowden a traitor and his actions lawless, Pompeo said that rewarding his behavior with attention is the opposite of what SXSW should stand for. He also accused Snowden of giving the information he took to the Russian government. Snowden has said in interviews that no other nation has the documents he took from the NSA but Pompeo and many other lawmakers have ridiculed that claim.
In case SXSW decided to go ahead with letting Snowden speak, Pompeo proposed several questions to ask, ones that he asserted had never come up before in interviews with Snowden. Mostly they are veiled accusations of treason or hidden financial motives. Pompeo also apparently wants to know why Snowden doesn’t want to return to the U.S. to answer for his crimes if he thinks he was doing the right thing, a question that somewhat answers itself.
Mainly though, the questions seem crafted more for the SXSW attendees as when he puts on the question list “why should the audience at SXSW find credible a man who broke his oaths and deliberately deceived not only his employer, but his country, in order to commit a theft?”
So far SXSW has not altered it’s agenda so Snowden will likely still be talking to the convention on Monday. Whether he will be answering any of Pompeo’s questions remains to be seen but it seems pretty unlikely except perhaps in the context of mocking them.
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