Snowden says he wants to return to US

Snowden says he wants to return to US

Summary: Fugitive self-proclaimed spy Edward Snowden has admitted he wants to return home, as he defended his massive leak of intelligence secrets, saying the abuse of the US Constitution left him no choice.

TOPICS: Security, Privacy

"If I could go any place in the world, that place would be home," Snowden said almost a year to the day since he revealed a stunning US surveillance dragnet mining data from phones and internet companies around the world.

"From day one, I said I'm doing this to serve my country. Whether amnesty or clemency is a possibility, that's for the public to decide," he told NBC in his first interview with US television since the scandal broke in early June last year.

And he sought to defend himself against charges led by the US administration that he is a traitor who endangered lives by revealing the extent of an NSA spying program through the British daily, The Guardian.

"The reality is the situation determined that this needed to be told to the public. You know, the constitution of the United States has been violated on a massive scale."

But top US officials laughed off the idea of a clemency, with Secretary of State John Kerry saying the 30-year-old former CIA employee should "man up" and return to face trial.

Snowden said he had worked covertly as "a technical expert" for the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, and as a trainer for the Defence Intelligence Agency.

"I don't work with people. I don't recruit agents. What I do is, I put systems to work for the United States. And I've done that at all levels — from the bottom on the ground all the way to the top."

But National Security Advisor Susan Rice swiftly denied his contention, replying "no" when asked by CNN if he had been a highly-trained undercover spy.

"Edward Snowden was a contractor working for the NSA and other elements of the intelligence community," she reiterated, stressing he should return home to face justice.

Snowden however blamed the United States for forcing him into exile in Russia after his revelations.

"The reality is, I never intended to end up in Russia," he said in the interview recorded clandestinely last week in Moscow.

"I had a flight booked to Cuba onwards to Latin America and I was stopped because the United States government decided to revoke my passport and trap me in Moscow Airport," Snowden told NBC.

"So when people ask, 'Why are you in Russia?' I say, please, ask the State Department."

But Kerry hit back, saying Snowden should do the patriotic thing and return to the United States to face espionage charges for leaking a trove of classified documents.

"This is a man who has betrayed his country," Kerry told CBS News. "He should man up and come back to the US."

"The fact is, he has damaged his country very significantly. I find it sad and disgraceful."

Snowden was granted asylum by Russia in August 2013 after spending weeks holed up in Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport after flying in from Hong Kong.

Kerry, however, denied that the State Department had trapped Snowden in Moscow, saying "for a supposedly smart guy, that's a pretty dumb answer, frankly."

"If Mr Snowden wants to come back to the United States today, we'll have him on a flight today," Kerry told NBC.

The temporary asylum expires August 1 and Snowden said "if the asylum looks like it's going to run out, then, of course, I would apply for an extension."

He denied he was a traitor, saying he was a patriot and insisting that a year on the administration could not show a single example of someone who had been harmed by his revelations.

Topics: Security, Privacy

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  • "Whether clemency or amnesty is possible..."

    That would be for the President to decide and he appears to have no interest in granting it. I suppose Snowden could be an end of term pardon in 2017, but I don't see it happening before then.

    I continue to be very ambivalent about Mr. Snowden. He sparked a much needed debate, but he's no hero (I've noted before his apparent aversion to risk); there do need to be laws against disclosing official secrets; and they do need to be enforced. Some have argued that his actions were legal based on the whistleblower statute, but the best person to have made that case would have been a lawyer representing Mr. Snowden himself in the days following the initial disclosures. I'll note that Glenn Greenwald, himself a lawyer, has publicly said he advised him to flee the country (which doesn't speak well of his legal position).

    i believe him when he says he wants to go home, but in the short term, he's going to have to face prosecution to do it (this President or a future one may make a different decision another day; possibly under popular pressure). He might beat the rap; he might not, but he legally made things worse for himself by becoming a fugitive. If he voluntarily returns, he might get bail, but he's already fled once, so that's a strike against him. He'd definitely need a first class lawyer, but he's gained enough sympathy that he'd likely to get one free or cheap (not to mention the large number of people who would willingly contribute to his legal defense fund). And the attention the case would certainly get would make it difficult for the feds to play legal games without detection.

    Finally, the State Department definitely disrupted Snowden's travel plans by revoking his passport, but this is standard procedure when dealing with fugitives (or suspects deemed to be flight risks). And Russia didn't have to honor the revocation; it chose to do so (I have to believe the decision was made by President Putin personally). Why this was done I doubt anyone outside the Kremlin knows for certain, but I've noted in the past that Mr. Putin (a spook himself) understands the value of good intelligence and Mr. Snowden's presence in the Moscow Airport would have represented an opportunity to find some things out with respect to US intelligence activities, if he wanted to take advantage of it.
    John L. Ries
    • Good points

      Good points, but one thing I see differently:

      "I've noted in the past that Mr. Putin (a spook himself) understands the value of good intelligence and Mr. Snowden's presence in the Moscow Airport would have represented an opportunity to find some things out with respect to US intelligence activities, if he wanted to take advantage of it."

      Even more than the value of good intelligence, Putin understands good PR (count the number of deaths during the annexation of Crimea - that's PR at work). I am pretty sure that Russia has inside people in the NSA that have a lot more info than Snowden does.
      • Wouldn't have been better PR ignore the revocation and send Snowden on his way?
        John L. Ries
        • As things stand...

          ...Snowden has asylum in Russia, but it's at the pleasure of the government, which can put him on the next flight to the US, whenever it decides he's outworn his welcome. That gives the Russian government a rather large stick it can use to persuade him to cooperate.
          John L. Ries
    • You've taken the words out of my mouth.

      While I respect Snowden for his actions, him running away from his actions is what keeps me from acknowledging him as a "hero".

      Until he faces the justice system, I can't consider him anything more than a person who leaked a bunch of documents and fled to another country.

      Him dodging the issue is one of the reasons why people are against him.

      If he had just leaked the documents and accepted arrest, he would've gotten more support.
  • An American hero...

    Snowden is a hero and needs to be respected as such. He stood up to an oppressive regime that has trampled on the US Constitution. It isn't Snowden who needs to be brought to justice, but those in the US Government and intelligence communities that have been supporting and carrying out illegal activities. Instead of accusing Snowden of wrongdoing, these government bullies need to actually deal with the privacy abuses that have been outlined and make swift reforms to make sure that citizen's right don't continue to be violated.
  • time to pay the toll

    What he did is illegal under the law so that's the end of that... As Kerry said - man up and face the penalties. He could have tried other avenues to bring the issues to light but chose to release the information to the public and in doing so damaged relations between the US and other countries and between Australia and Indonesia and so on - so he has caused damage to relations between countries.

    And for anyone thinking he is a hero etc - "the road to hell is paved with good intentions" so the ends (raising issues) do not justify the means (ongoing leaks of classified material over the past 12 months) in order to keep his 15 minutes of fame going as long as possible.
    • Really?

      He illegally exposed the government's illegal acts..

      • so...

        So breaking the law to highlight someone else's breaking of the law is your justification? That has never been fair grounds for breaking the law... And still isn't now. Or are you going to try and stretch it to be a 'self-defence' scenario???

        They have oversight committees etc in the US like in Aus there are oversight groups to go to if you have evidence of the security agencies breaking the laws.

        And failing that you can always go to the media and say - 'i have information that laws are being broken, I wont release said information but I have it and if a commission is set up I'll testify' sort of thing. Snowden even said himself at one point that he wanted to testify in congress - so he didn't need to release the information he just needed to get in front of an inquiry.
        • The needs of the many exceed the needs of the few.

          So yes, breaking a law to show the leaders are breaking the law is acceptable.
          When you have a governing body that is acting in a corrupt manner, you have a civic duty to expose that corruption, so while he acted out illegally, he acted as a true patriot of this nation and risked his own life in the process.
          • And still...

            ...I have yet to see even one Snowden supporter articulate what he thinks the law *should* be with regard to disclosure of official secrets. Saying he shouldn't be prosecuted because he's a good guy who did the right thing isn't good enough. If we want laws to be more than weapons to be employed against whomever the prosecutor deems to be a villain, but nobody is seriously expected to obey in full, then they have to be enforced consistently.

            So I ask again: What *should* the rule be?
            John L. Ries
          • Easy - it should be a whistleblower law that WORKS

            This isn't hard - everyone criticizing Snowden fleeing is ignoring the US government's record in treating whistleblowers, especially whistleblowers in the intelligence community. The laws are there - kind of, sort of - but don't work.
    • there is a difference

      between what is legal and what is ethical. He did the right thing, given the limited options available to anyone trying to expose wrongdoing by a government agency that lied to the American people and to its representatives in congress.

      Does anyone expect he would get a fair trial when the same government that would trying him has already labeled him a traitor and that has supported the same abuses of power that Snowden exposed?
      • It's hard to railroad a defendent in a high profile case

        Railroading mostly happens to indigent defendants who can't afford their own lawyers and that nobody outside of immediate friends, family, and personal acquaintances ever heard of (I remember this happening to the son of a friend once; he was in jail nearly a year before the charges were dropped). It's a lot harder to do when the case is well publicized, the defendant is well known, and the defense lawyer makes the case a high priority.
        John L. Ries
  • Damaging Government not same as damaging Americans

    This government is out of control.

    It no longer represents citizens when "forcing people to buy insurance" is called "health care". It is the insurance industry, through government, that has ruined health care and cause prices to skyrocket.

    So, I would argue, uncovering GOVERNMENT ABUSE OF POWER may be damaging to POLITICIANS and LIBERATING to CITIZENS.
    • You do realize that...

      1. By being forced into purchasing insurance, they created their own financial prison.
      2. We have forced them into paying for pre-existing conditions.
      3. Eliminated lifetime caps.
      4. Forced them to accept certain price controls that will not allow continuous price increases.
      5. Reduced the amount they can charge for Administrative fees on top of insurance claims.

      So while this initially sucks and it does, this is going to force a change for the better.
  • The real story...

    Isn't that he wants to come or can come home. It's that he's obviously not dealing with a full deck. He's a high school dropout, who's lied about his salary, his education, and his job. He was a baggage checker who now says he was trained as a spy with a fake name. Wow. Just wow. I hope people will realize that he has no credibility. See my pre-interview post:
    • The real story...

      There are plenty of examples, over the years and in many countries, of whistle blowers being unfairly targeted, discredited, sacked, jailed and killed.

      I am not saying that Snowden is an angel sent from the gods of truth, freedom and goodwill but when people start repetitively insulting the individual rather that discussing the merits or not of the issues being leaked, I get worried.

      To me it does not matter one jot if Snowden is a lying, sneaky, dough-boy with a BO problem, athletes foot and halitosis. Are the documents being leaked real? Do they contain substance which indicates illegal governmental acts against US citizens? Do governmental organisations appear to be acting beyond the law?

      If the answer to all three is yes, then should you not be just a little more concerned about the content than the delivery boy?
    • I wonder about the spy thing myself

      But neither the US government nor any other duly informed commentator has even suggested that the documents disclosed are not what they purport to be. As far as we know, they *are* genuine, even if the man who leaked them has integrity issues.

      And as noted in my talkbacks to your prior opinion piece, the integrity problems would have been excellent reasons to deny Mr. Snowden a both sysadmin job and a clearance; but they have nothing at all to do with whether or not the disclosures were justified. That and you should never post when you're angry (write, put it aside, and rewrite when you've calmed down); doing so hurts the quality of your work.
      John L. Ries
  • Return to U.S.?

    ROFL, Snowden will have gray hair, be eligible for SS checks & hell will freeze over before he sets foot on his native soil again!