Edward Snowden didn’t take any secret files to Russia with him when he fled there in June. Instead, the former National Security Agency contractor left all the classified documents he obtained with journalists he met in Hong Kong.
In a recent interview with Snowden, The New York Times reports the NSA leaker explained taking the files to Russia “wouldn’t serve the public interest.” He added, “That would be the unique value of personally carrying another copy of the materials onward?”
Snowden added that he was able to make sure the documents didn’t end up in the hands of China’s spies because he is familiar with the Asian country’s intelligence abilities. He stated, “There’s a zero percent chance the Russians or Chinese have received any documents.”
The answers could ease some concerns American intelligence officials have. They previously expressed concern that the files Snowden took could have fallen into the hands of a foreign intelligence service. The former NSA contractor added that he wanted to say publicly that he no longer had any of the agency’s files.
Edward Snowden’s actions this summer polarized public opinion in the United States, notes Reuters. While some were outraged by the extent of the NSA’s surveillance programs, others called Snowden a traitor for stealing information from the agency after vowing to respect its secrecy policies.
While some intelligence officials believe Snowden compromised national security by stealing and leaking the NSA documents, the whistleblower believes otherwise. He explained, “The secret continuance of these programs represents a far greater danger than their disclosure.” Snowden added that he helped national security by causing a needed debate over the scope of America’s intelligence effort.
Edward Snowden added that he never considered defecting while he was in Hong Kong or Russia, the latter of which granted him asylum for one year. Should he return to the United States, Snowden will face charges of espionage related to the NSA documents he took.
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