Fri, May 30, 2014 - Page 7 News List

Snowden says he wants to return to the US

‘MAN UP’:The former CIA contractor said he wants to be able to see his family again, but does not accept any wrongdoing, while officials said he should face trial

AFP, WASHINGTON

Fugitive self-proclaimed spy Edward Snowden said on Wednesday that he wants to return home, as he defended his massive leak of US intelligence secrets, saying abuses of constitutional rights left him no choice.

“If I could go anywhere 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, including Europe.

“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 hacker and a traitor who endangered lives by revealing the extent of the US National Security Agency (NSA) spying program through the British daily the Guardian.

“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,” he said.

“How can it be said that this harmed the country when all three branches of government have made reforms as a result?” Snowden said.

Top US officials laughed off the idea of a clemency. US Secretary of State John Kerry said the 30-year-old former CIA employee should “man up” and return to face trial.

Snowden also said he was not just a low-level contractor working for the CIA, as the White House has repeatedly insisted.

“I was trained as a spy in sort of the traditional sense of the word in that I lived and worked undercover overseas — pretending to work in a job that I’m not — and even being assigned a name that was not mine,” he told NBC.

Snowden said he had worked covertly as “a technical expert” for the CIA and the NSA.

US National Security Advisor Susan Rice disputed his contention, replying “no” when asked by CNN if he had been a highly trained undercover spy.

Snowden blamed the US for forcing him into exile in Russia.

“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.”

“For a supposedly smart guy, that’s a pretty dumb answer, frankly,” Kerry said in response.

Snowden should do the patriotic thing and return to the US to face espionage charges for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents, the top US diplomat said.

“This is a man who has betrayed his country,” Kerry told CBS News.

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