30-year-old American Edward Snowden, a contract employee at the National Security Agency, is the whistleblower behind significant revelations that surfaced in June 2013 about the US government's top secret, extensive domestic surveillance programmes. Snowden flew to Hong Kong from Hawaii in May 2013, and supplied confidential US government documents to media outlets including the Guardian.
I'm a patriot, says Guardian newspaper editor as he defends Snowden leaks
The editor of Britain's Guardian newspaper yesterday defended the publication of leaks by Edward Snowden, insisting during fierce questioning from lawmakers that it had not put any lives at risk.
Video: Guardian editor defends Snowden leaks before UK MPs
Alan Rusbridger insisted he was a "patriot" when he was asked by a parliamentary committee if he loved his country.
Britain's spy chiefs told lawmakers last month that the Guardian's publication of leaks by former US National Security Agency contractor Snowden had helped Britain's enemies.
Over the last six months The Guardian, along with other international media organisations including the South China Morning Post, has revealed the existence of mass surveillance programmes such as GCHQ's Tempora, which taps into cables carrying internet traffic to and from the UK.
"This stuff may be politically embarrassing but there's nothing here that is risking national security," Rusbridger told the Home Affairs Select Committee.
"It is important context that editors of probably the world's leading newspapers in America, the Washington Post and The New York Times, took virtually identical decisions. So this is not a rogue newspaper." Rusbridger said that only around 1 per cent of the 58,000 secret documents passed to the Guardian and other papers by Snowden had been published.
The rest were "secure" he said. He declined to reveal in public where they were kept, saying he would write to the committee to tell them if they wanted.
Asked if the Guardian was responsible for revealing the names of intelligence agents, Rusbridger said the paper had "published no names and we have lost control of no names".
Rusbridger said he was "surprised" when committee chairman Keith Vaz asked him: "Do you love this country?"
"We are patriots, and one of the things we are patriotic about is democracy and the nature of our free press," Rusbridger hit back.