Snowden To Address N.H. Free State Convention

Thursday, December 17, 2015
Whistleblower and privacy activist Edward Snowden is slated to appear via video conference at the Free State Project’s annual convention in February in Manchester, N.H.

The former contractor for the National Security Agency who leaked millions of documents about government surveillance will speak live from Russia, where he has been granted asylum while facing pending U.S. government charges. He will participate in a 30-minute discussion and question-and-answer session at the Free-Staters’ annual Liberty Forum.

The topic of discussion has not yet been fixed, and organizers are not yet releasing details about the event, according to Free State Project President Carla Gericke.

“He’s a really insightful and brilliant man,” she said in an interview Wednesday, “so I think from our perspective we’re really excited to give him a platform.”

Speaking for herself, Gericke said that Snowden had exposed “unconstitutional” surveillance of people’s communications and that he did not deserve the label of “traitor” used by some of his critics.

“I think what he did was incredibly courageous and brave,” she said, comparing Snowden’s disclosures with those of Daniel Ellsberg, the analyst who released the Pentagon Papers, top-secret government documents about the Vietnam War. Ellsberg was charged with — and eventually acquitted of — theft of government property and violating the Espionage Act, the same charges now pending against Snowden. Ellsberg now serves with Snowden as a director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation.

The Free State Project is a libertarian activist movement whose participants relocate to New Hampshire, many of them to Grafton, to build a “freer, more voluntary society,” according to a Dec. 3 news release from the group.

As for how the Free-Staters managed to book Snowden, Gericke said, “The standing joke is, ‘I could tell you but I’d have to kill you.’ ”

The group reached out to Snowden a few years ago, she said, and by networking with other privacy activists — including Thomas Drake, an earlier NSA leaker who also has appeared at the Free State forum — it eventually made it happen.

In 2014, Snowden was the subject of t he Oscar-winning documentary Citizenfour , which chronicles his work with journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras — the filmmaker — to reveal the secrets.

Snowden is an active Twitter user; a direct message to him via the social media service was not returned Wednesday.

Participants in the Free State forum, which runs Feb. 18-21, will discuss a couple of recent events from the Upper Valley. Jody Underwood, a member of both the Croydon School Board and the Free State Project’s board of directors, is expected to discuss Croydon’s ongoing dispute with state education officials over school choice. The School Board has continued to defy state authorities, who have attempted to stop it from using public money to send students to a private school.

Liberty Forum attendees also will hear about Kilton Public Library’s decision to be the first public library in the nation to host a relay for the anonymous web browsing service Tor, despite concerns from the Department of Homeland Security and the Lebanon Police Department that Tor can be used for criminal activity.

Rob Wolfe can be reached at or 603-727-3242.

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