Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.
In a surprise Christmas message aired Wednesday night on Britain's Channel 4, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden reminded citizens of countries around the world that if there's something the government wants to know about them, it's always easier to ask than spy.
"Recently, we learned that our governments, working in concert, have created a system of worldwide mass surveillance, watching everything we do," he said. "Great Britain's George Orwell warned us of the danger of this kind of information. The types of collection in the book -- microphones and cameras and TV's that watch us -- are nothing compared to what we have available today."
He went on to say that the true price of carrying sensors in our pockets everywhere we go is that future generations will have "no conception" of privacy, and not a single moment of their lives will go unrecorded. "And that's a problem, because privacy matters," Snowden said.
"Together we can find a better balance, end mass surveillance, and remind the government that if it really wants to know how we feel, asking is always cheaper than spying," he concluded. "For everyone out there listening, thank you and Merry Christmas."
Snowden's Christmas message comes on the heels of a lengthy interview with The Washington Post, in which the whistleblower announced that his mission "is already accomplished."
"I already won," he said. "As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated. Because, remember, I didn't want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself."
Watch his Christmas message below: