IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Snowden's guide to how the NSA sees your sexts

NSA leaker Edward Snowden got into the meat of surveillance programs on Sunday, explaining exactly how the laws help the NSA collect nude photographs.

The National Security Agency can see your nude pictures, NSA leaker Edward Snowden told HBO’s John Oliver on Sunday’s episode of “Last Week Tonight.”

In hopes of combatting the highly complex details of the National Security Agency's surveillance programs on Americans', Oliver zeroes in a form of communication he argues Americans care deeply about: nude pictures. It makes for a predictably awkward interview -- particularly when Oliver hands over a folder that he says has a photo of his own dick in it.

“This is the most visible line in the sand for people: can they see my dick?” Oliver said in an interview with Snowden in Russia. “So let’s go through each NSA program, and explain to me its capabilities in regards to that photograph of my penis.”

Does Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act allow for nude photographs to be collected by the government?

“Yes, the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which Section 702 falls under, allows the bulk collection of internet communications that are one end foreign,” Snowden said. “If you have your email somewhere like Gmail, that’s hosted on a server overseas, or anytime crosses outside the borders of the United States, your junk ends up in the database.”

“It doesn’t have to be sending your dick to a German?” Oliver asked.

“Even if you send it to someone within the U.S. your wholly domestic communication between you and your wife can go from New York to London and back and get caught up in the database,” Snowden said.

Does Executive Order 12333?

“When you send your junk through Gmail, for example, that’s stored on Google servers. Google moves data from data center to data center, invisibly to you, without your knowledge, your data could be used outside the borders of the United States temporarily. When your junk was passed by Gmail, the NSA caught a copy of that,” Snowden said. 

What about PRISM?

“PRISM is how they pull your junk out of Google with Google’s involvement.”

And Upstream?

“Upstream is how they snatch your junk as it transits the Internet.”

How about MYSTIC?

“If you’re describing the junk on your phone, yes,” Snowden said.

“Do they have the content of that junk call or just the duration of it?” Oliver asked.

“They have the content as well, but only for a few countries. If you’re on vacation in the Bahamas, yes.”

What about Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act?

“No, but they can probably see who you can share your junk pictures with.” 

Snowden, who recalls missing Hot Pockets and his family, defended his decision to leak the information he did, even though it has reportedly compromised national security details. He argued in the interview that the American people needed to know and he was "vindicated" to see the international outrage that emerged. 

“If the American people understood this they’d be absolutely horrified,” Oliver declared of the nude photo review of NSA programs. 

“I guess I never thought about putting it in the context of your junk,” Snowden concluded.