Edward Snowden, the American whistleblower who blew the lid on global surveillance programs run by the National Security Agency (NSA) has said that such vigilance programmes can never prevent terrorism fully.
Speaking at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia on Friday, Snowden said, “Even the most extensive monitoring system would never be able to make us perfectly safe from terrorism.”
“Yet, mass surveillance is often used by intelligence agencies to spy on citizens regardless if a crime is being committed or not,” he added.
Snowden was welcomed as a chief guest by the audience attending the third day of the festival in a debate via video link broadcasted by the Ansa news agency. The festival has gathered journalists and experts from all over the world since 2006.
Snowden long served the National Security Agency (NSA), the Central Intelligence Service (CIA) and other American security agencies as technology and cyber-security expert.
In 2013, Snowden made a host of revelatory disclosures regarding a “global surveillance apparatus” run by the United States in cooperation with Australia, Canada and the United KIngdom, due to which he had to seek asylum away from the United States.
He is currently residing in an unknown location in Russia.
Islamic State (IS) fighters are targeting civilians who are trying to flee the last territory held by the terror group in eastern Syria, U.S.-backed forces told VOA on Thursday.
Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a U.S.-backed Kurdish-led alliance, said that IS militants hit a road used by civilians to escape violence as the battle to free the town of Baghuz in Syria’s Deir el-Zour province enters its sixth day.
“IS has blocked that road to prevent civilians from coming to the SDF,” SDF fighter Ali Ahmed said. “They have targeted civilians there, but we have responded to their attacks against civilians.”
Ahmed said that some families of IS fighters are among the fleeing civilians.
Located near the Iraqi border, Baghuz is the last stronghold held by IS extremists in Syria. With the help of the U.S.-led coalition, SDF fighters have pushed out IS from all territories it once held since 2014.
Fierce fighting between IS militants and the U.S.-backed fighters continues as the latter try to gain ground on Baghuz on several fronts.
“We have two main obstacles as we advance on Baghuz,” Mustafa Bali, an SDF spokesperson, told VOA. “The first one is that [IS] terrorists are holding on to a number of civilians to use them as a bargain chip for their exit.”
Bali said the second obstacle for the SDF forces is that IS has a number of hostages who had been arrested and detained by the militants.
IS controls about 5 square kilometers of territory inside the Syrian town, local military officials said.
Ivan Hasib, a Syrian reporter covering the battle, told VOA that he witnessed an unusual movement by U.S. military vehicles in the area.
“It seems that even the Americans are trying to rescue those civilians and hostages from IS,” Hasib said in a phone interview.
He said the remaining IS fighters in Baghuz are hoping to exchange hostages for a safe exit into the Iraqi desert.
“There must be some sort of negotiations between IS and SDF about the hostages, because even [U.S.-led] coalition airstrikes have stopped since Tuesday night,” Hasib said, adding that SDF fighters were forced to pause their military operations on the northeastern front in Baghuz.
“We can’t start marching toward it from this side because of civilians. Many civilians are using this road to this side. So we’re here to protect them,” Mezlum Kobani, an SDF commander, told VOA.
According to SDF officials, more than 5,000 civilians have been rescued from IS in Baghuz. (VOA)