Edward Snowden, former National Security Agency contractor who leaked details of the agency’s surveillance programs, says that he did not take any classified NSA documents with him to Russia.
In an interview with the New York Times, Snowden claimed that he left all classified NSA documents in his possession with a group of Hong Kong journalists before he fled to Moscow for sanctuary in June. He says that his possessing the information “wouldn’t serve the public interest.”
“What would be the unique value of personally carrying another copy of the materials onward?” Snowden added.
In the same interview, Snowden stated that there was no way that the documents have ended up in Chinese or Russian hands. He claims that as part of his work for the NSA, he routinely targeted Chinese intelligence operations and is familiar with the way they operate. Snowden also believes that the NSA knows he has taken such precaution against foreign nationals in encrypting the classified documents.
“If that was compromised,” he went on, “NSA would have set the table on fire from slamming it so many times in denouncing the damage it had caused. Yet NSA has not offered a single example of damage from the leaks. They haven’t said boo about it except ‘we think,’ ‘maybe,’ ‘have to assume’ from anonymous and former officials. Not ‘China is going dark.’ Not ‘the Chinese military has shut us out.’”
Snowden also told the Times that he felt his leaks helped U.S. national security far more than it harmed it by revealing the scope of the NSA’s surveillance programs.
“The secret continuance of these programs represents a far greater danger than their disclosure,” Snowden said.
“So long as there’s broad support amongst a people, it can be argued there’s a level of legitimacy even to the most invasive and morally wrong program, as it was an informed and willing decision,” he said. “However, programs that are implemented in secret, out of public oversight, lack that legitimacy, and that’s a problem. It also represents a dangerous normalization of ‘governing in the dark,’ where decisions with enormous public impact occur without any public input.”