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In an interview with Vice last Thursday, Snowden said world leaders who claim new emergency authority will hold onto that power well after the pandemic ends.
He talked about emergency powers born out of a crisis, while referencing mass surveillance and certain measures implemented out of 9/11 -- including the Patriot Act.
“As authoritarianism spreads, as emergency laws proliferate, as we sacrifice our rights, we also sacrifice our capability to arrest the slide into a less liberal and less free world," he told Vice.
“Do you truly believe that when the first wave, this second wave, the 16th wave of the coronavirus is a long-forgotten memory, that these capabilities will not be kept? That these datasets will not be kept?”
He says those measures were deemed temporary but have continued to stay in place in some fashion.
Snowden also discussed how he believes researchers have known an event like the COVID-19 outbreak was going to happen eventually.
"There is nothing more foreseeable as a public health crisis in a world where we are just living on top of each other in crowded and polluted cities, than a pandemic," Snowden said.
"And every academic, every researcher who's looked at this knew this was coming. And in fact, even intelligence agencies, I can tell you firsthand, because I used to read the reports and had been planning for pandemics."
He added that he doesn't believe numbers coming out of China -- where infected cases have leveled off in recent weeks are correct.
"I don't think we can [trust those numbers]. Particularly, we see the Chinese government recently working to expel Western journalists at precisely this moment where we need credible independent warnings in this region," he told Vice.
The interview was conducted by video as Snowden is reported to still be in Russia.