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Interview with Edward Snowden. TRANSCRIPT: 9/16/19, The 11th Brian Williams.

Guests: Harry Litman, A.B. Stoddard

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR:  So they`ve met the freshmen.  Great to have you here.  Please come back.

That is tonight`s LAST WORD.  "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight, brinksmanship from the White House as President Trump once again says America is locked and loaded and looking at Iran after an attack on a huge Saudi oil facility.

Plus, the President takes aim at "The New York Times" over its new reporting.  An explosive story about now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh a year after the Republican Senate voted to put him on the court.

Also tonight, five years after first meeting Edward Snowden in Moscow, our conversation with him today.  We`ll hear him talk about life, our politics, our data, who`s looking at it, how vulnerable we are, and along the way, he talks about Donald Trump.


EDWARD SNOWDEN, AUTHOR, "PERMANENT RECORD":  Donald Trump strikes me like nothing so much as a man who has never really known a love that he hasn`t had to pay for.


WILLIAMS:  All of it as THE 11TH HOUR gets under way on a Monday night.

Well, good evening, once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.  Day 970 of the Trump administration.  And tonight, the President appeared before a rally in New Mexico.  His first visit as president to that state.  He lost to Hillary Clinton back in 2016.  As he begins the week facing brand-new challenges at home and abroad.

This weekend`s attack on Saudi Arabia`s major oil facility has heightened tensions with Iran because of the President saying the U.S. was locked and loaded and awaiting word from the Saudis on how to proceed.  This afternoon, Trump was asked about the possibility of a military conflict with Tehran.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  No, I don`t want war with anybody but we`re prepared more than anybody.  Two and a half years ago, I will tell you, it was not the same thing.  And with what we`ve done, we`ve totally rebuilt our military in so many different ways, but we`ve rebuilt it and there`s nobody that has the F-35, have the best fighter jets, the best rockets, the best missiles, the best equipment, but with all of that being said, we certainly like to avoid it.


WILLIAMS:  More on that front ahead in this broadcast.

The President is also facing trouble on another front and one he will not like.  A new effort to get copies of his tax returns.  NBC News has confirmed "The New York Times" report from earlier today that prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney`s Office have subpoenaed eight years of his personal and corporate tax returns.  This goes back to 2011.  They`re seeking tax documents from Trump`s longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA.  This latest request comes as part of New York State`s criminal investigation into what role Trump or his business may have made in making hush money payments in the weeks before the 2016 election.

Just days ago, we learned that former Trump attorney, Michael Cohen, is cooperating in this case.  You`ll recall while serving a three-year federal sentence for, among other crimes, his role in making those payments to the porn star, Stormy Daniels, which constituted a campaign finance violation, a case in which the President was an unindicted co-conspirator.

The House Ways and Means Committee has already subpoenaed Trump`s tax returns.  That was back in May.  He is fighting that request in court presently.

Tomorrow, Trump`s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, is expected to testify publicly as part of the House Judiciary Committee`s obstruction investigation.  Two other witnesses, and this is notable, former Trump administration aides Rick Dearborn and Rob Porter were also scheduled to testify but the White House has told them not to appear.

And there`s also an explosive story as we mentioned having to do with Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh who was sworn in almost a year ago now after that contentious confirmation process which included the emotional testimony from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford who accused Justice Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct.

This weekend, "The New York Times" published a piece about Deborah Ramirez who had accused Justice Kavanaugh of exposing himself to her during a party at the Yale University campus in the early `80s.  The piece is part of a book out tomorrow by two "Times" reporters.  They write, "At least seven people including Ms. Ramirez`s mother heard about the Yale incident long before Mr. Kavanaugh was a federal judge.  Two of those people were classmates who learned of it just days after the party occurred, suggesting that it was discussed among students at the time."

"The New York Times" reported on another allegation that Kavanaugh exposed himself to another female classmate during his time at Yale and that a witness named Max Stier, "Notified senators and the FBI about this -- his account, but the FBI did not investigate and Mr. Stier has declined to discuss it publicly."

The "Times" added to the reporting last night that the female student involved in this new claim, "declined to be interviewed and friends say she does not recall the episode."

Kavanaugh has repeatedly denied the allegations from Ford and Ramirez and had declined to comment on the new allegations.

Trump has been vigorously defending Kavanaugh on social media.

Meanwhile, six of the Democratic presidential candidates have called for Kavanaugh`s impeachment and Trump responded just in the last hour.


TRUMP:  Look at what they`re doing today to Justice Kavanaugh.

They`re calling for his resignation.  They`re calling for his impeachment.  The woman said, I don`t remember that.  OK.  And they still want him to be impeached.


WILLIAMS:  House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler says they plan to question FBI Director Christopher Wray about the bureau`s Kavanaugh investigation at a hearing that will be next month.

Here for our leadoff discussion or on a Monday night as we start a new week of this, Tim O`Brien, Executive Editor of "Bloomberg Opinion," also happens to be the author of "Trump Nation: The Art of Being the Donald," A.B. Stoddard, Columnist and Associate Editor at Real Clear Politics, and Harry Litman, former Federal Prosecutor and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General.

And, Counselor, I`d like to begin with you out on the West Coast.


WILLIAMS:  You said today that this tax return story, this request, this demand, could be a game changer.  Why is that, in your view?

LITMAN:  Everything about the House Ways and Means Committee request is strange and barricaded by the Department of Justice which is fighting tooth and nail with specious legal claims.  This is a straight up request from a private party.  The accounting firm that says it`s going to cooperate as part of a criminal investigation.  So none of those blockades are there, it`s likely to get the information, although, note, it`s still going to be secret.

And then second, it reignites everything about the Cohen investigation that stopped in its tracks.  And remember, they had a long way to go and we know now that the Trump organization and David -- Weisselberg is in their sites, the "National Enquirer" and Sam Pecker, maybe Hope Hicks, maybe Donald Trump Jr. who signed one of the checks.  It could go a long way and Vance is making every sign that he`s prepared to follow the road where it leads.

WILLIAMS:  And people who remember the name, Cyrus Vance, in our national politics, this is his son who is now D.A. in Manhattan.


WILLIAMS:  Tim O`Brien, this could all be moot, of course, because the President in a way I`m going to play right now for us to discuss has already promised us a look at his financials.


TRUMP:  There will be at some point prior to the election, I`m going to be giving out a financial report of me and it will be extremely complete.  I`m going to give out -- I`m going to give out my financial condition and you`ll be extremely shocked that the numbers are many, many times what you think.


WILLIAMS:  So not only will it be extremely complete, we will be extremely shocked at the numbers therein.  Why would you have any reason to doubt him?

TIM O`BRIEN, BLOOMBERG OPINION EXECUTVE EDITOR:  I doubt it extremely.  I have extreme doubts the President will ever willingly turn over anything that`s transparent about his own finances.  And the reason for that is he has a number of things he wants to hide.  His business has never been as robust as he said it is.  He`s never been as generous as philanthropist as he said he is.  That sets the low-level issues.

The stuff that hits him in the Oval Office, where does his income come from, and who`s financed his businesses?  And that`s going to -- some of that will surface in the tax returns.

I think, unfortunately, the timeframe on both what the D.A. is looking at and what the House Ways and Means Committee is looking at, may not go to the most germane information.  The House Ways and Means Committee is going back about six years.  The D.A.`s office wants to go back eight.

In the mid 2000s a lot of cash came into the Trump Organization and Donald Trump went on a shopping spree.  He bought Trump Turnberry.  He got involved with the Trump Soho.  And the provenance of the projects, where the money came to get those things done has been a big question mark.

Eric Trump has told reporters in the past that they got the money from Russians and then he backed away from that.  Trump has said, well, we paid for it out of our own business proceeds.  But at the time he was doing that, he was also applying for loans to buy Turnberry.  And all of that predates the date range in which they`re looking at these tax returns.

So I think some of the mother-load might get missed in this.  Nonetheless, I think they`re going to look at things inside Trump`s taxes about how clear he is about defining how much income he has.  Where it comes from.  What he`s booking as expenses.  And I think that`s some of the stuff that`s going land on the Michael Cohen portion of this.

WILLIAMS:  A.B., help us make the turn into jurisprudence, or at least what passes for it.  A lot of Democrats lining up today elbowing each other out of the spotlight to say, let`s impeach Justice Kavanaugh.  That`s a high bar, perhaps, and I know you`ve talked about this before, the Democrats would make it their target to take over control of the U.S. Senate which would make that a little easier.

A.B. STODDARD, REAL CLEAR POLITICS ASSOC. EDITOR AND COLUMNIST:  Right, Brian.  I found it -- just astounding that they failed to make the case to voters that they have to achieve a majority in the Senate to get anything that they want.  To confirm judges, to try to shift back the court in -- after the incredible change that it has undergone in the Trump administration.

Almost double the amount of openings that he inherited compared to Obama in 2009 are just a complete remaking of the court in just a few years.  And they never talk about that on the campaign trail and they never talk about the need to get back to the majority in the Senate.

And the idea that they`re going to start talking about impeaching a Supreme Court justice right now in a Republican majority Senate, something that the chairman of the Judiciary Committee on the House side immediately said no, no, no, you could see it later in reporting throughout the day, other top, you know, leaders in the party, big-name Democrats saying, no, no, no, we`re not interested in this.  And their grassroots energy and their insurgents will all talk about it because, you know, several of the candidates on the campaign trail will, but it`s a mistake.

You can tell the story of how this court changed and why it`s important to have a majority control.  You could even talk about the specter of maybe he lied under oath.  Maybe it was a sham investigation done in just 10 days.  But the idea of impeaching him is ludicrous.

WILLIAMS:  Why do you think that is about Democrats and the Senate?  I mean, if there was any doubt, we learned there was no one in charge of the party the night the Democrats came out and criticized Obama at their debate, but why do you think --


WILLIAMS:  -- they are treating the notion of a Democratic majority about reducing Mitch McConnell to minority leader as something untouchable?

STODDARD:  I know.  Well, it`s a tough map.  It`s a tough road back.  But I think that, again, the first step is energizing their voters the way the conservatives have done so effectively talking about this as a priority.

Trump basically saying on the campaign trail in `16 you have to vote for me because of the judges, it`s all about the judges.  You never hear this from anyone on the trail, even Biden.  And it`s really should be their primary goal.  Let`s unite around whoever, because we have two goals, taking back the Senate so we can get some nominations and some confirmations.  At this point even with a Democratic president, if Mitch McConnell`s majority leader, you`ve got nothing.

WILLIAMS:  When they say, Tim O`Brien, it`s all about the judges, they`re not kidding.  It`s what informs the smile that always seems to be on Mitch McConnell`s face.

O`BRIEN:  Well, and I think it will be this -- one of the signal achievements of Trump`s first term in which he had very little to do with.  I mean, this was a federalist society, Don McGahn, Mitch McConnell play.  And it`s going to g one of the longest lasting impacts of the Trump years.  And I think it shows the real differences between Democrats and Republicans.

The federalist society started planning on this stuff in the mid 1980s.  They laid the groundwork for this.  They were methodical.  They identified vacancies.  They identified judges.  They cultivated judges.  The Democrats are never good at that kind of a long ground game.

WILLIAMS:  Harry, meanwhile, we watch the continuing Charlie Browning of Jerry Nadler.  The pulling of the football away from this chairman of the House Judiciary Committee that has now decided, I guess, to retell some of the story of -- in the Mueller report.  Do they have any recourse when the White House just says, these two former aides, they`re not going to appear before your committee?

LITMAN:  Yes, only the law, it`s just that the law takes place over a scale of months and they need it in days or weeks.  Lewandowski will testify tomorrow on limited material and he won`t hurt Trump at all.  And as you say, the other two aides, it`s -- well, first of all, the whole notion of absolute immunity is completely concocted and made up for McGahn, as for porter, as for anyone they apply it to, but these guys are not, you know, the deepest circle, anyway.

So, no, they do it because they can.  They stall for time.  It goes to the courts.  Potentially, even to the D.C. Circuit and Supreme Court and that is, you know, next summer or so by the time it plays out.  It`s a really meritless claim, but in the political and news cycles, which is what they`re looking at, buying the time is valuable and they sort of win by losing.

WILLIAMS:  Never boring around here.  Especially on this Monday night with our thanks to Tim O`Brien, to A.B. Stoddard, and to Harry Litman, three of our returning veterans.  Appreciate it very much.

And coming up for us, is the President really gunning for an attack on Iran or just talking that way?

And can Saudi Arabia really ordered up an attack by U.S. forces on their behalf, even if they compensate us for our troubles?

And later, our interview today with Edward Snowden on how our phones never sleep.  And the stories they can and do tell about all of us.  That ought to keep you tuned in.  It`s a compelling segment.  THE 11TH HOUR just getting started on this Monday night of a new week.


WILLIAMS:  Welcome back.  There was a drone attack over the weekend on Saudi oil facilities and our President is at least raising the question on social media, of course, that the U.S. would consider an attack on Iran on behalf of the Kingdom in Saudi Arabia.  Today he added they would reimburse us for the expense to our forces and he said that he would wait for the Saudis to tell him, "under what terms we would proceed."

One Democrat in Congress said it makes the President sound submissive.  Others say it would reduce our arm forces to mercenaries for hire.

Iran for their part has denied responsibility for the attacks.  Iranian Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen initially claimed responsibility for the strikes that cut about five percent, right there, of the world`s oil supply.

The Saudis released a statement today.  It reads in part, "Initial investigations have indicated that the weapons used in the attack were Iranian weapons.  Investigations are still ongoing to determine the source of the attack."

Earlier today, the President was asked about the attacks in the Oval Office.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Have you seen evidence, proof, that Iran was behind the attack?

TRUMP:  Well, it`s looking that way.  We`ll have some pretty good -- we`re having some very strong studies done, but it`s certainly looking that way at this moment, and we`ll let you know.  As soon as we find out definitively, we`ll let you know, but it does look that way.


WILLIAMS:  President also added he doesn`t want war with anybody, but on Sunday, he said, "There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack and under what terms we would proceed."

Late today, NBC News reported that according to three sources, U.S. Intel indicates that the drone attacks on the oil facilities originated from Iran which still begs the question of why it would be a U.S. fight.

Here with us tonight to talk about it, General Barry McCaffrey, retired U.S. Army Four Star, a heavily decorated combat veteran of Vietnam.  And importantly, a U.S. ground commander in the Gulf War.  He has been to this oil field in Saudi Arabia.  Also with us tonight, Jeremy Bash, former Chief of Staff at the CIA and at the Pentagon.

General, I`d like to begin with you.  Tell us about this facility and tell us your view of the optics of this President saying we are "locked and loaded" and seemingly awaiting instructions from the Kingdom?

GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, U.S. ARMY (RET.):  Look, it was a very serious blow at Saudi Arabia.  It probably knocked half their total production off-line.  Some of it maybe for months.

I think at the end of the day, it`s going to turn out to be an Iranian technology, Iranian-devised attack, possibly through surrogates up in Iraq or Yemen, unlikely.  And the question now arises, the President`s applied maximum pressure since we withdrew from the nuclear accord, they are now pushing back with maximum deniable pressure.

I think no one in the region wants war.  Trump doesn`t want war.  The Saudis have just been demonstrated their vulnerability to attack on their own infrastructure.  The Iranians don`t want war.  If you end up being subject to attack by the U.S. Air Force and Navy for 30 to 90 days, it`s going to wreck most of their country.  So I think the President`s bluffing on U.S. military response.  He`s going to have to find a way out of his box.

We`re going to have to talk the Iranians and it better be soon because the revolutionary guards may not want peace.  They may see this as an opportunity.  So we`ll see where it goes, but it`s a very tricky situation.

WILLIAMS:  Jeremy bash, I`m tempted to ask what isn`t vulnerable to these drones we have created across the world, but I`m truly curious to hear your big-picture view of this region and what could happen.

JEREMY BASH, FMR. CIA CHIEF OF STAFF:  Well, first of all, I think it`s interesting to note that when General McCaffrey was leading troops in 1991 in the Gulf, Mohammed bin Salman, crown prince of Saudi Arabia, was 6 years old.  He did not experience the scud barrage on his own country.  This is the first real test of his leadership, effectively running the country.

And I agree with General McCaffrey, this is a significant blow to Saudi oil output.  It is basically an act of war against the Saudis but not an act of war against the United States.

And I think we got to be clear that we respond militarily when our vital interests are threatened.  We try to act multilaterally.  We consult with Congress. We try to exhaust diplomacy.  We have a clear exit plan and exit strategy.  We have none of those conditions here.  And so I do not think this situation warrants a United States kinetic military response.

WILLIAMS:  General, is this the foreign policy crisis we have been fortunate enough to avoid these 970 days, and what does it do inside you to hear the President say our military would be reimbursed for our actions, conceivably, on behalf of the Kingdom?

MCCAFFREY:  Well, the language, of course, is entirely inappropriate from a senior political leader like the President of the United States.  It`s just unheard of.

A locked and loaded is a term used on rifle ranges when you`re about to fire at the next command.  So it just -- it`s provocative.  It`s not -- it put him in a box, himself.

I think at the end of the d we are not going to use military power against Iranians.  We do have a capability to devastate their oil infrastructure, take out their navy and most of their air force, but it would serve nobody`s purpose and it would be a terrible blow to the UAE and Saudi Arabia.  We`d be in trouble with the Iraqis.  We`re not going to have allies join us.  So, I don`t think it`s going to happen.

So Trump now is being put in a position where he`s got to go to the Iranians, give them some face-saving way out and start talking to them.  I think that`s the outcome of this crisis.

WILLIAMS:  Jeremy Bash, the President tweeted this today, "The fake news is saying that I am willing to meet with Iran.  No conditions.  That is an incorrect statement as usual."

I want to show you now why we in the fake news media have reported it the way we have.


TRUMP:  I would certainly meet with Iran if they wanted to meet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Do you have preconditions for that meeting?

TRUMP:  No preconditions, no.  They want to meet, I`ll meet.  Any time they want.  No preconditions.

You want to talk, good.  Otherwise, you can have a bad economy for the next three years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No preconditions?

TRUMP:  Not as far as I`m concerned.  No preconditions.


WILLIAMS:  So, Mr. Bash, you see that example.  The whole world, however, is able to hear this and the whole world is watching this.

BASH:  He doesn`t have any credibility.  On June 20th when the Iranians actually shot at a U.S. aircraft downing in international airspace, a U.S. flagged remotely piloted aircraft, the President said that he wasn`t even told by the United States military that there would be casualties if the United States responded.  That, of course, also was incorrect.  Not true.  And really undermined his, but more importantly, America`s credibility.  It`s these inconsistent statements, these easily provable misstatements that I think make our word and, therefore, our deterrence, a lot weaker.

WILLIAMS:  To Barry McCaffrey, thank you very much.  To Jeremy Bash, thank you very much.  Both of you gentlemen for adding to our conversation tonight.

And coming up, his name is synonymous with the biggest intelligence theft, the biggest intelligence breach in our history.  Now he lives in exile.  Our exclusive interview earlier today with Edward Snowden, including whether he`s ready to come home and face the music in this country when we continue.


WILLIAMS:  Back in 2014 after a long, protracted negotiation, I traveled to Moscow where at the appointed hour, there was a knock at my hotel room door and when I answered it, there was a young man who introduced himself as Ed and shook my hand.  We had both taken extraordinary security precautions to be able to meet and speak to each other in person, and we talked for hours.  All of it was fascinating, especially considering he was just about the most sought-after man in the world at the time because of what he had done.  The largest intelligence breach in history.

Ed Snowden has now told his story in a new book called, "Permanent Record".  And so today from this studio, I interviewed him in Moscow.


WILLIAMS:  Something you`ve been asked before, something you have answered before, but since this is a fresh occasion, we`ll ask it again.  Why not stay in this country and face the music if you believed in the strength of your conviction?

EDWARD SNOWDEN, "PERMANENT RECORD", AUTHOR:  This is a great question, Brian, and I`m glad you asked it.  When we say face the music, the question is, well, what song are they playing?  I was intentionally charged, as every major whistle-blower in the last decades has been, with a very particular crime.  This is a violation of the Espionage Act of 1917.  And this is a law that is explicitly designed to prohibit a meaningful defense in court.

I would not have received a fair trial.  There would not have been much of a trial at all.  I would only have received a sentencing.  And the question there is, what message does that send, whether you like me or not -- I could be the best person in the world, I could be the worst -- what message does a conviction where you spend the rest of your life in prison for telling journalists things that changed the laws of the United States, that have resulted in the most substantive reforms to intelligence authorities since the 1970s, if the only result of doing that is a life sentence in prison?  The next person who sees something criminal happening in the United States government will be discouraged from coming forward, and I can`t be a part of that.

WILLIAMS:  You`ve said your greatest fear over what you did was that things would not change.  Have things changed?  Would you do it again today knowing what you know now?

SNOWDEN:  This is a significant portion of the final chapter of my book.  Things have changed, and I would do it again.  If I changed anything, I would hope that I could have come forward sooner.  It took me so long just to understand what was happening.  And it took so long to realize that nobody else was going to fix this.  Believe me when I say I did not want to light a match and burn my life to the ground.  No one does.

Nobody really wants to be a whistle-blower, but the results of that have been staggering.  I thought this was going to be a two-day story.  I thought everybody was going to forget about this a week after the journalist ran the first stories in 2013.  But here we are in 2019 and we`re still talking about it.  In fact, data security, surveillance, the internet, manipulation and influence that`s provided or produced, rather, by corporate or governmental control of this permanent record of all of our private lives, it`s being created every day by the devices that we have, the world after 2013 we know that is happening, and this is the critical importance of journalism, particularly in this moment we have today.

The distance between speculation and fact is everything in a democracy because that`s what lets us, as we did post-2013, change our laws.  The very first program that was revealed in newspapers has since been terminated.  Barack Obama who criticized me so strongly in June of 2013, by January of 2014 was proposing that this program be ended.  Eventually, it was ended under the USA Freedom Act.

The NSA argued that mass surveillance was legal.  Bulk collection, as they call it.  They said 15 different judges authorized this.  What they didn`t tell us was that those 15 judges all belonged to the rubber stamp FISA court that over 33 years had been asked 33,900 times by the government to prove surveillance requests and only said no in 33 years 11 times.

WILLIAMS:  We have several important jobs vacant in this country including director of national security, national security adviser.  Is that a threat to our security?

SNOWDEN:  I think it really says something about where we are.  What this point in our history looks like.  When we find that there are not enough people in the country that are willing to serve in the White House and qualified to serve in the White House.  Who all sides of the government feel comfortable working with and who they can back.

We are in a time that is increasingly fractured and I think that`s a product of the fact that, look, if you look around at the world right now, when you look at news, when you look at news coverage, when you look at every controversy that we see, something has changed.  And that is that it has become increasingly popular for your feelings to matter more than the facts, and I think that`s toxic to a democracy because if there`s one thing that we have to have to be able to have this discussion, to be able to learn to live with people that we disagree with, we can`t have a conversation about what we should do.  We can`t have a conversation about where we are going if we can`t agree on where we are.  If we can`t agree on what is happening.  Facts have to matter more than feelings.

WILLIAMS:  What do you make of Donald Trump?

SNOWDEN:  There are so many things that are said about the President right now and so much thinking, and honestly, I try not to think about it.  There`s so much chaos and there are so many aggressive and offensive things said.  I think even his supporters would grant that.  But I think he`s actually quite simple to understand.

Donald Trump strikes me like nothing so much as a man who has never really known a love that he hasn`t had to pay for.  And so everything that he does is informed by a kind of transactionalism, I think, and what he`s actually looking for is simply for people to like him.  Unfortunately, that produces a lot of negative effects.


WILLIAMS:  On that last assertion, we reached out tonight to the White House for comment and have not heard back.

We`re going to take a break.  More of my exclusive conversation with Edward Snowden in just a moment.  This next part is the portion everyone needs to see and hear.  It`s about your phone and what it knows about you and what Snowden does to his phones when he buys a new one.


WILLIAMS:  Next time you`re sitting at a traffic light in your city or town, just take a look at the people you can see.  Many aren`t looking forward as they walk, they`re looking down, just like they`re looking down while on planes, at the wheel, at ball games, at home.  Our phones have taken over a portion of our lives we didn`t know we had to give away.

Now, please listen to Edward Snowden from our conversation earlier today when he talks about how vulnerable we are, what our phones give off, what they give away, and what they can tell someone about us.


SNOWDEN:  Hacking has increasingly become what governments consider a legitimate investigative tool.  They use the same methods and techniques as criminal hackers.  And what this means is they will try to remotely take over your device.  Once they do this, by detecting a vulnerability in the software that your device runs such as Apple`s iOS or Microsoft Windows, it can craft a special kind of attack code called an exploit.

They then launch this exploit at the vulnerability on your device which allows them to take total control of that device.  Anything you can do on that device, the attacker, in this case, the government, can do.  They can read your email, they can collect every document, they can look at your contact book, they can turn the location services on.  They can see anything that is on that phone instantly and send it back home to the mother ship.  They can do the same with laptops.

The other prong that we forget so frequently is that in many cases they don`t need to hack our devices.  They can simply ask Google for a copy of our e-mail box because Google saves a copy of that.

WILLIAMS:  What about enabling your microphone camera?

SNOWDEN:  If you can do it, they can do it.  It is trivial to remotely turn on your microphone or to activate your camera so long as you have systems- level access.  If you had hacked someone`s device remotely, anything they can do, you can do.  They can look up your nose, right?  They can record what`s in the room.

The screen may be off as it`s sitting on your desk, but the device is talking all of the time.  The question we have to ask, who is it talking to?  Even if your phone is not hacked, right now, you look at it, it`s just sitting there on a charger, it is talking tens or hundreds or thousands of times a minute to any number of different companies who have apps installed on your phone.  It looks like it`s off.  It looks like it`s just sitting there, but it is constantly chattering.

WILLIAMS:  What about the public attitude held by millions of everyday Americans, all I`ve got on a computer is pictures of my family.  CCTV cameras that are prevalent in a ton of American cities and overseas capitals.  Those cameras are your friend if you`re innocent and have nothing to hide.

SNOWDEN:  Well let`s say that`s very much what the average Chinese citizen believed or perhaps even still to this day believes.  But we see how these same technologies are being applied to create what they call the social credit system.  If any of these family photos, if any of your activities online, if your purchases, if your associations, if your friends are in any way different from what the government or the powers that be of the moment would like them to be, you`re no longer able to purchase train tickets.  You`re no longer able to board an airplane.  You may not be able to get a passport.  You may not be eligible for a job.  You might not be able to work for the government.

All of these things are increasingly being created and programmed and decided by algorithms and those algorithms are fueled by precisely the instant data that our devices are creating all of the time, constantly, invisibly, quietly, right now.  Our devices are casting all of these records that we do not see being created that in aggregate seem very innocent.  You were at Starbucks at this time.  You went to the hospital afterwards.  You spent a long time at the hospital.  After you left the hospital, you made a phone call.  You made a phone call to your mother.  You talked to her until the middle of the night.  The hospital was an oncology clinic.

Even if you can`t see the content of these communications, the activity records, what the government calls metadata, which they argue they do not need a warrant to collect, tells the whole story.  And these activity records are being created and shared and collected and intercepted constantly by companies and governments.  And ultimately, it means as they sell these, as they trade these, as they make their businesses on the backs of these records, what they are selling is not information.  What they`re selling is us.  They`re selling our future.  They`re selling our parent.  They are selling our history, our identity, and ultimately, they are stealing our power and making our stories work for them.

WILLIAMS:  What devices do you use in your life now, and have you accepted the notion that you are watched rather constantly?

SNOWDEN:  I try not to make that easy for them.  If I get a smartphone and I need to use a phone, I actually open it up before I use it.  I perform a kind of surgery on it to physically desolder (ph) or sort of melt the metal connections that hold the microphone on the phone and I physically take this off.  I remove the camera for the phone then I close it back up.  I seal it up.  And then if I need to make a phone call, I will attach an external microphone on it.  And this is just so -- if the phone is sitting there and I`m not making a call, it cannot hear me.


WILLIAMS:  One more section of our conversation upcoming.  He`s already spent six years in exile.  An American living in Moscow with the Russians monitoring his every move.  We`ll talk about his dream of coming home to the U.S.


WILLIAMS:  Welcome back.  Edward Snowden`s decision to go public on his once secret work for our government put everything he knew at risk.  His life in America, his job and his personal relationships.  Here now, more of our conversation.


WILLIAMS:  Where do your parents come down on what you did?  In the book, we learn a lot more than we knew about them.  They were both -- we say this in quote, deep staters.  We learn that they both had varying degrees of security clearances in their lives.

SNOWDEN:  Yes.  I come from a federal family.  My father worked for the military, my mother worked for the courts.  My whole line, going back, has worked in the government service.  So I think this was difficult for them.  And, in fact, one of the things I will be eternally grateful for is the fact that they still stand by me today and believe that I did the right thing.

WILLIAMS:  You paint a portrait of what some of us knew, and that was that you were a thoroughly American kid in your upbringing.  You wake up every day in Russia, you go to sleep every night in Russia.  Are you actively seeking to get out?  Are you, as has been reported, looking for asylum elsewhere?

SNOWDEN:  Well, this is not an actively seeking, this is not a new thing.  And this is important history, especially for those people who don`t like me.  For those people who doubt me, who have heard terrible things about me.  It was never my intention to end up in Russia.  I was going to Latin America and my final destination was hopefully going to be Ecuador.

I applied for asylum in 27 different countries around the world, traditionally U.S. allies.  Places like France and Germany, places like Norway, that I felt the U.S. government and the American public could be comfortable, that was fine for a whistleblower to be in, and yet every time one of these governments got close to opening their doors, the phone would ring in their foreign ministries and on the other end of the line would be a very senior American official.  It was one of two people, then Secretary of State John Kerry or then Vice President Joe Biden.

And they would say, look, we don`t ware what the law is, we don`t care if you can do this or not, we understand that protecting whistleblowers and granting asylum is a matter of human rights and you could do this if you want to.  But if you protect this man, if you let this guy out of Russia, there will be consequences.  We`re not going to say what they`re going to be, but there will be a response.

I continue, to this day, to say, look, if the United States government, if these countries, are willing to open the door, that is not a hostile act.  That is the act of a friend.  If anything, if the United States government is so concerned about Russia, right, shouldn`t they be happy for me to leave?  And yet we see they`re trying so hard to prevent me from leaving.  I would ask you, why is that?

WILLIAMS:  I`m guessing Joe Biden is not your candidate for 2020.

SNOWDEN:  Actually, I don`t take a position on the 2020 race.  Look, it`s a difficult position being in the executive branch.  It`s a difficult decision being in power and you have to make unpopular decisions.

WILLIAMS:  What if someone said help us harden our elections from attack using your skills?

SNOWDEN:  I would volunteer for that instantly.  You know, they wouldn`t even have to pay me for that.  Remember, I volunteered to work for the CIA, for the NSA.  When I came forward to reveal mass surveillance, which we need to be clear, the courts have found was, in fact, unlawful on the part of the government and one court said likely unconstitutional.  So I have no objection to helping the government.

I came forward not to burn the NSA down.  I came forward to reform it, to help it return to the ideals that we`re all supposed to share.  So there will be never be a question of when my government is ready, when my government wants me to help, I will be there.

WILLIAMS:  Ed Snowden, thank you very much.  Good luck with the book.

SNOWDEN:  It`s my pleasure, Brian.  Thank you for having me.


WILLIAMS:  Edward Snowden, the Author of the new book called, "Permanent Record."  It goes on sale tomorrow.  A final break.  We`re back after this.


WILLIAMS:  Real quick before we go.  Without edits for time or television, we put the entire interview on the web with Edward Snowden at  That`s  Also tonight, we`ve made it available for download as a special edition podcast, separate and apart from the podcast of tonight`s TV broadcast.  It`s available for download now.

And with that, that is our broadcast for this Monday night, as we start a new week.  Thank you for being here with us.  Good night from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.                                                                                                     END