John Oliver Grills Edward Snowden About Whether the NSA Leaks Harmed the US

April 6th 2015

Sarah Gray

On Sunday night, "Last Week Tonight" aired an interview between host John Oliver and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The interview took place in the second half of an over 30-minute segment about the Patriot Act's Section 215 (which allows bulk collection of data), privacy, NSA leaked documents, and security.

"There are no easy answers here," Oliver stated. "We all, naturally, want perfect privacy and perfect safety. But those two things cannot co-exist. It's like how you can't have a bad-ass pet falcon and an adorable pet vole named Herbert. Either you have to lose one of them -- which obviously you don't want to do -- or you have to accept some reasonable restrictions on both of them."

This difficult balance of privacy and security was a key theme in Oliver's interview with Snowden. The "Last Week Tonight" host grilled Snowden on whether or not the information he revealed could hurt U.S. security. He also examined the complexity of America's feelings about Snowden, the NSA, privacy, and security.

These feelings seem to be split along generational lines. "Fifty-seven percent of 18- to 29-year olds said the leaks have served rather than harmed the public interest," the Pew Research Center found in 2014. Fifty-three percent of those 65 and older believe the leaks have done more harm.

In the end, Oliver found a way to communicate the invasion of privacy to the American people, by discussing nude photos: