Snowden's attorney to speak at UH School of Law - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Snowden's attorney to speak at UH School of Law

Ben Wizner Ben Wizner
Edward Snowden Edward Snowden
MANOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

ACLU attorney and New York University law professor Ben Wizner’s life changed forever in July 2013, when he was contacted by then-intelligence analyst Edward Snowden.

"He likes to joke he knew who I was before I knew who he was," Wizner said. "Which has a creepy resonance to it because he was a professional spy."

Snowden is the former NSA subcontractor and Hawaii resident known around the world for leaking sensitive and classified information about the country's surveillance programs to multiple news outlets. And Wizner is his attorney.

Before Snowden's leak, Wizner had been working for a decade to try to get the courts to hear cases on the legality of some of the National Security Agency's practices.

"The courts don't say the government's programs are legal or illegal. They simply say the case can't be brought, because there's too much secrecy around it," Wizner said. "What Edward Snowden did is he gave us a ticket to federal court."

Wizner will host a free public seminar Friday, called "Liberty and Security in the Age of Terrorism" at the University of Hawaii's Richardson School of Law. He'll also be teaching a five-day "Liberty and Security" seminar at the law school.

Speaking Thursday, Wizner said Snowden's leaks have prompted incredible change in a relatively short period of time.

"We've seen courts saying for the first time that some of these programs are illegal," he said. "Congress, for the first time since the 1970's legislated to restrict rather than expand the authority of the intelligence community to conduct surveillance."

Wizner said he communicates frequently with Snowden over encrypted channels and in person in Russia, where Snowden fled after leaking the confidential materials. While Wizner acknowledges Snowden may never return to the United States, he does think the future will hold him in better standing.

"When the smoke clears a little bit and some time has passed, Edward Snowden is going to be seen more universally as someone who helped improve our democracy," Wizner said.

The seminar starts at 5:30 p.m. at the School of Law in Classrom 3. For more information, click here.

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