Snow­den: I want to go home, but can’t

Tech­ni­cian who re­leased US se­crets says he would not face a fair trial

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE in Wash­ing­ton

Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency in­tel­li­gence leaker Ed­ward Snow­den said in a tele­vi­sion in­ter­view on Wed­nes­day that he wants to re­turn home from ex­ile in Rus­sia, but he knows he will face es­pi­onage charges if he does.

He said he can­not re­turn to face trial be­cause of the “ex­tra­or­di­nary charges” laid against him, which would bar him from us­ing clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion in his de­fense.

In the in­ter­view with NBC — his first US tele­vi­sion in­ter­view since the scan­dal broke al­most a year ago — he also de­fended his mas­sive leak of US in­tel­li­gence se­crets, say­ing “mas­sive” abuses of the US Con­sti­tu­tion left him no choice.

“If I could go any­where in the world, that place would be home,” Snow­den said al­most a year to the day since he re­vealed a stun­ning US sur­veil­lance drag­net min­ing data from phones and In­ter­net com­pa­nies around the world, in­clud­ing Europe.

“From day one, I said I’m do­ing this to serve my coun­try. Whether amnesty or clemency is a pos­si­bil­ity, that’s for the pub­lic to de­cide,” he told NBC.

And he sought to de­fend him­self against charges led by the US ad­min­is­tra­tion that he is a hacker and a traitor who en­dan­gered lives by re­veal­ing the ex­tent of the NSA spy­ing pro­gram through the Bri­tish daily The Guardian.

“The re­al­ity is the sit­u­a­tion de­ter­mined that this needed to be told to the pub­lic. You know, the Con­sti­tu­tion of the United States has been vi­o­lated on a mas­sive scale,” he said.

“How can it be said that this harmed the coun­try when all three branches of govern­ment have made re­forms as a re­sult?” Snow­den asked, look­ing re­laxed and calm dur­ing the in­ter­view in a Moscow ho­tel. ‘Trained as a spy’

Snow­den also al­leged he was not just a low-level con­trac­tor work­ing for the CIA, as the White House has re­peat­edly said.

“I was trained as a spy in sort of the tra­di­tional sense of the word in that I lived and worked un­der­cover over­seas — pre­tend­ing to work in a job that I’m not — and even be­ing as­signed a name that was not mine,” he told NBC.

Snow­den said he had worked covertly as “a tech­ni­cal ex­pert” for the Cen­tral In­tel­li­gence Agency and the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency.

But Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sor Su­san Rice dis­puted his con­tention, re­ply­ing “no” when asked by CNN if he had been a highly trained un­der­cover spy.

Snow­den blamed the United States for forc­ing him into ex­ile in Rus­sia.

“The re­al­ity is, I never in­tended to end up in Rus­sia,” he said in the in­ter­view recorded clan­des­tinely last week in Moscow.

“I had a flight booked to Cuba on­wards to Latin Amer­ica and I was stopped be­cause the United States govern­ment de­cided to re­voke my pass­port and trap me in Moscow Air­port,” Snow­den told NBC.

Snow­den was granted asy­lum by Rus­sia in Au­gust af­ter spend­ing weeks holed up in Moscow’s Shereme­tyevo Air­port, hav­ing flown in from Hong Kong.

His tem­po­rar y asy­lum ex­pires on Aug 1 and Snow­den said, “if the asy­lum looks like it’s go­ing to run out, then, of course, I would ap­ply for an ex­ten­sion”.

Top US of­fi­cials laughed off the idea of grant­ing Snow­den clemency. Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry said the 30-yearold for­mer CIA em­ployee should “man up” and re­turn to face trial.

“This is a man who has be­trayed his coun­try,” Kerry told CBS News. “He should man up and come back to the US.”

“The fact is, he has dam­aged his coun­try very sig­nif­i­cantly. I find it sad and dis­grace­ful.”

Snow­den said he had had no con­tact with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin since he was given in asy­lum, and he de­nied he was be­ing paid by the Rus­sian govern­ment.

And he said he missed his fam­ily, col­leagues and his work, in­sist­ing he was a pa­triot, still serv­ing the US govern­ment.

“Some­times to do the right thing you have to break a law,” he in­sisted.

“Be­ing a pa­triot doesn’t mean pri­or­i­tiz­ing ser­vice to govern­ment above all else. Be­ing a pa­triot means know­ing when to pro­tect your coun­try, know­ing when to pro­tect your con­sti­tu­tion,” he added.

“I may have lost my abil­ity to travel, but I have gained the abil­ity to go to sleep at night, put my head on the pil­low and feel com­fort­able that I have done the right thing even when it was the hard thing. I’m com­fort­able with that,” Snow­den con­cluded.

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