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  • Sep 22, 2014
  • Updated: 11:59am
Edward Snowden

‘I’m not working for Russia’: Edward Snowden denies sharing secrets with Kremlin

Former NSA contractor claims he destroyed classified materials before transiting to Moscow from Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 May, 2014, 11:06am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 May, 2014, 5:36pm

Former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden told a US television interviewer on Wednesday he was not under the control of Russia’s government and had given Moscow no intelligence documents after nearly a year of asylum there.

“I have no relationship with the Russian government at all,” Snowden said in an interview with NBC News, his first with a US television network.

“I’m not supported by the Russian government. I’m not taking money from the Russian government. I’m not a spy.”

I’m not supported by the Russian government. I’m not taking money from the Russian government. I’m not a spy
Edward Snowden

The remarks by Snowden, whose leaks about highly classified US surveillance programmes shook the National Security Agency and prompted limited reforms by President Barack Obama, were his most extensive to date on his relations with his host government.

Current and former US intelligence officials have said it is unlikely Russian security services have not squeezed Snowden for secrets.

“I think he is now being manipulated by Russian intelligence,” former NSA director Keith Alexander said last month.

But Snowden – who said he wants to return to the United States – said he destroyed classified materials before transiting to a Moscow airport, where he was prevented from onward travel.

"I took nothing to Russia, so I could give them nothing," he told NBC’s Brian Williams in the hour-long interview.

Later in the interview, Snowden briefly criticised the crackdown on freedom of expression under Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Casting himself as a defender of privacy and civil liberties, he deemed it "frustrating" to "end up stuck in a place where those rights are being challenged in ways that I would consider deeply unfair."

Snowden, who fled to Hong Kong and then Moscow last year, is believed to have accessed about 1.5 million secret documents, US officials have said, although how many he actually took is unclear. The leaked documents revealed massive programmes run by the NSA that gathered information on e-mails, phone calls and internet use including, in many cases, by Americans.

He was charged last year in the United States with theft of government property, unauthorised communication of national defence information and willful communication of classified intelligence to an unauthorised person.

"If I could go anywhere in the world, that place would be home," Snowden said.

US officials said he was welcome to return to the United States if he wanted to face justice for leaking details of massive US intelligence-gathering programmes.

Secretary of State John Kerry invited Snowden to "man up and come back to the United States."

"The bottom line is this is a man who has betrayed his country, who is sitting in Russia, an authoritarian country where he has taken refuge," Kerry told the CBS This Morning programme on Wednesday.

Snowden made clear he would not return to the United States and hope for the best. He said he would not simply "walk into a jail cell," and that if his one-year asylum in Russia, which expires on August 1, "looks like it’s going to run out, then of course I would apply for an extension."

The Guardian newspaper quoted Ben Wizner, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union and legal adviser to Snowden, responding to Kerry’s comments. Wizner said it would be impossible for Snowdon to argue that his disclosures had served the common good if he returned home to face the current Espionage Act charges.

He also said Snowden would run the risk of facing numerous additional charges for each document that has been published.

"The exposure that he faces is virtually unlimited under this," Wizner said.

In one odd moment in the NBC interview, Snowden expressed sympathy for working-level NSA employees who have been castigated as a result of his leaks.

"People have demonised the NSA to a point that’s too extreme," he said, adding that the problem is with senior-level officials who expand their surveillance powers without public debate.


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This article is now closed to comments

China should grant asylum visa to Snowden so he can live in Hong Kong instead. Hong Kong is where he want to be originally after all.
Oh the irony. Snowden the 'hero' who was brave enough to stand up and blow the whistle to protect the civil rights and liberties of all US citizens. Consequently seeking asylum in Russia, where free speech is limited, all media outlets are heavily censored, and simply protesting can land you and your family in jail. What a fool you and your followers are Snowden.
Max Diethelm
Edward Snowden is the great American hero and should be awarded the Nobel peace Price.
"If I could go anywhere in the world, that place would be home," Snowden said. Unquote
He should have thought about that before going on his hell bent self-righteous crusade. To many people he is a brave soul who would sacrifice himself for the good of all people. To his country, he is a traitor, period. Even such a person comes out of Russia, China, Canada, England, Japan...etc, going around leaking national Intels, that person would end up with the same fate as Snowden: a traitor.
If he wants to be a martyr then he should die like a martyr. There is no lukewarm solution. So I suggest him to man up and suck it up like a real hero. Too late for regrets.
China should hire Edward Snowden as a consultant on cyber security. With his talents and heroism and the affection shown by many to him Edward Snowden is a popular person and will certainly have a successful career in China like founding another giant Alibaba!
Oh right, nearly forgot about Mr Snowden. Is he still living at the airport? If not, what is his visa status in Russia?


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