Edward Snowden says his mission is 'already accomplished' after he sparked widespread debate about United States data surveillance. The former National Security Agency contractor leaked secret spying information.
During his first in-person interview since June, when he arrived in Russia after being granted temporary asylum, Snowden declared he had "already won" his campaign for the United States to re-evaluate its policies of widespread phone and internet surveillance.
"For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission's already accomplished," he said in the interview with The Washington Post, which was published Tuesday.
Snowden's revelations that the US government had routinely collected Americans' internet and phone records, especially in the 10 years since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, caused a worldwide public outcry about the intrusion of privacy.
The ripple effects have been wide-ranging, including calling into question the US relationship with its allies, after it was revealed government leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel had their phones tapped. Now EU members, as well as Brazil, are mulling ways to better protect their information and technology companies like Google and Microsoft are examining ways to block data collection.
"As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated,” Snowden said.
NSA now under scrutiny
The US government is also examining the role of the NSA, with President Barack Obama on Friday saying he welcomed a debate and was considering possible changes to the spy agency's broad powers. He said he would make a "pretty definitive statement" in January about the direction of the NSA overhaul.
A federal judge has warned the routine collection of phone records was probably unconstitutional while an expert White House panel of legal and intelligence experts has released a list of 46 proposed changes to the NSA, including reducing its powers, warning that its sweeps of information in the US ‘war on terror' had gone too far.
Snowden said he was satisfied that the public was now informed, since the revelations were initially published by the Washington Post and the Guardian in June.
"Because, remember, I didn't want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself."
‘Relaxed and animated'
Washington Post reporter Barton Gellman, who had previously received leaks from Snowden, interviewed him in Moscow over two days.
Barton described Snowden as "relaxed and animated" during their almost unbroken conversation, "fueled by burgers, pasta, ice cream and Russian pastry."
Snowden, 30, is facing US federal criminal complaint charges of espionage and felony theft of government property, prompting him to seek asylum in Russia.
However, he said he was not being disloyal to the United States, saying he was entitled to spill the electronic surveillance secrets because lawmakers had failed to ask probing questions of the NSA and kept its programs hidden.
"I am not trying to bring down the NSA, I am working to improve the NSA," Snowden said. "I am still working for the NSA right now. They are the only ones who don't realize it."
se/rc (AFP, AP, Reuters)