Move over Julian Assange, there's an even bigger name heading to SXSW Interactive this year. SXSW announced Tuesday morning that it is adding former NSA contractor — turned whistleblower — Edward Snowden to the official lineup.
Appearing via teleconference, presumably from Russia where he currently has asylum following the release of thousands of classified documents revealing the NSA's extensive surveillance program of both U.S. citizens and allied governments, Snowden will be speaking on March 10 with Christopher Soghoian, the principal technologist of the American Civil Liberties Union. The conversation will discuss surveillance and online privacy, a topic that will likely be a hot-button issue at this year's conference.
As the ACLU press release points out, this is Snowden's "first conversation in front of an audience since his disclosures began making global headlines last year." The documents Snowden released made him not only an enemy of the state in his home country, but rocked relationships abroad, most notably with Germany after it was revealed that the U.S. government may have tapped German Chancellor Angela Merkel's private cell phone.
Also moderating will be Snowden's legal counsel, undoubtedly there to ensure that Snowden does not further incriminate himself as he attempts to seek clemency from the U.S. government, something the Obama administration has repeatedly said it will not grant. Perhaps the most exciting part of the panel is that Snowden has agreed to take questions directly from the audience.
"A Virtual Conversation with Edward Snowden," which, we predict, will be the hottest panel during SXSW Interactive, will be held at Exhibit Hall 5 on the first floor of the Austin Convention Center and open to Interactive, Gold or Platinum badge holders only.
For those of us who can't be there in person, The Texas Tribune will be livestreaming the event.