Edward Snowden

US media too scared to tackle excesses, says Edward Snowden

Snowden said he shunned American outlets because they abdicated their role

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 August, 2013, 4:27am

Edward Snowden has accused major news outlets in the United States of failing "to challenge the excesses of government" after the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001 because they were scared of being labelled "unpatriotic".

In an encrypted online exchange with The New York Times, the fugitive leaker who sought refuge in Hong Kong in June said this was why he ignored them when it came to exposing the National Security Agency's cyberspying programmes.

"After 9/11, many of the most important news outlets in America abdicated their role as a check on power - the journalistic responsibility to challenge the excesses of government - for fear of being seen as unpatriotic and punished in the market during a period of heightened nationalism," said Snowden, who did not name any outlet.

Snowden reiterated previous comments on why he chose documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras and The Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald to channel the leaks, saying they were "among the few who reported fearlessly on controversial topics throughout this period, even in the face of withering personal criticism".

When Snowden met Poitras and Greenwald for the first time in Hong Kong in June, he felt "they were annoyed that I was younger than they expected" and he was surprised Poitras had started filming straight away.

"As one might imagine, normally spies allergically avoid contact with reporters or media, so I was a virgin source - everything was a surprise," he said.

The former CIA analyst and NSA contractor made further claims to the South China Morning Post after he broke cover, revealing documents that showed US spies had been hacking computers and phones in Hong Kong and mainland China for years.

He left Hong Kong on June 23 and spent five weeks in the transit area of a Moscow airport before being granted temporary political asylum in Russia on August 1, angering US officials who want him extradited to face espionage charges.

Snowden has previously criticised The New York Times for failing to hold the government accountable over a request from the White House in 2005 that saw the paper delay for a year publication of a story about the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping.

"From a business perspective, this was the obvious strategy, but what benefited the institutions ended up costing the public dearly," Snowden said. "The major outlets are still only beginning to recover from this cold period."