Fugitive self-proclaimed spy and NSA secrets leaker Edward Snowden says he wants to return home to the United States.
In his first interview on U.S. television, Snowden toldNBC-TV newsman Brian Williams Wednesday that he sees himself as a patriot, but that until he can return to the U.S. he plans to ask Russia to extend his asylum.
He sought to defend himself against charges by the Obama administration that he is a traitor who endangered lives by revealing the extent of an NSA spying program.
“I’d say, can you show that?,” he asked. “Is there any demonstration? Because I’ve been asking the United States, the press has been asking the United States government for a year now. If after a year, they can’t show a single individual who’s been harmed in any way by this reporting, is it really so grave? Is it really so serious? And can we really trust those claims without scrutinizing them?”
Asked whether he would make a deal to return, Snowden said he first wants to make “sure that these programs are reformed,” and that the family and country he left behind can be helped by his actions. He said all three branches of the U.S. government have made reforms as a result of what he did.
“The reality is the situation determined that [t]his needed to be told to the public. You know, the Constitution of the United States has been violated on a massive scale,” he said. “Now, had that not happened, had the government not gone too far and overreached – we wouldn’t be in a situation where whistleblowers were necessary. “
The United States charged Snowden with theft and two counts of espionage after he revealed the breadth of National Security Agency surveillance programs, including the bulk collection of telephone and Internet data from Americans.
Earlier Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Snowden should “man up” and return to the United States to face espionage charges.
Snowden is living in asylum in Russia a year after leaking a vast cache of NSA documents to journalists that described clandestine U.S. spy operations around the world. He passed on the documents to journalists at the British newspaper The Guardian and The Washington Post.
Snowden used the interview to rebut critics who described him as nothing more than a low-level analyst. He said that he was “trained as a spy” and worked undercover overseas for the U.S. intelligence community.