Bill Maher acknowledged his respect for former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden during Real Time‘s return episode on Friday, while comparing him to former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) during an interview with journalist Glenn Greenwald.
“I agree with what he says, I nod along,” Maher said. “And then he says something totally batsh*t.”
Maher then quoted from Snowden’s “open letter to the people of Brazil” last month, in which Snowden said programs like the NSA’s surveillance efforts “were never about terrorism” but were instead about “social control, and diplomatic manipulation.”
“That’s crazy,” Maher told Greenwald. “They were about stopping terrorism. They may have gone too far. But everybody in the government isn’t out to get you.”
After reading Snowden’s allegation that the government can “go back in time” to chart a person’s online history, Maher asked Greenwald, “This is nuts, right?”
“No, Bill, what’s nuts is the fact that you think that’s nuts,” said Greenwald, who published several articles based on knowledge seized by Snowden. “A lot of the stories we reported had nothing to do with terrorism. They’re spying on economic summits in Latin America, oil companies in Brazil, democratically-elected leaders of our closest allies who have nothing to do with terrorism.”
Greenwald further argued that the reporting enabled by Snowden’s information showed that the NSA had the ability to “slow down the internet” by storing data long enough to search through a person’s search history and correspondence.
“He’s a 29 years old who’s not a trained politician,” Greenwald continued. “He doesn’t have aides whispering in his ear what he should say. He’s not adept at that. That’s what makes him so impressive — it was an act of conscience.”
“No one is arguing with that Glenn,” Maher said, cutting in. “What I said is, every time he opens his mouth, he always says something f*cking nuts. When he says, ‘They know every friend you’ve ever discussed something with,’ we’ll just have to agree to disagree on what’s f*cking nuts.”
Watch the exchange between Maher and Snowden, as posted online on Friday, below.