Edward Snowden possesses data that could prove far more “damaging” to the US government, but the fugitive leaker has chosen not to release them, said a journalist who first broke the story.
Glenn Greenwald told Argentina’s La Nacion newspaper that Snowden, who is currently stranded in Moscow, had only sought to alert people that information they thought was private was being exploited by US intelligence agencies.
“Snowden has enough information to cause more damage to the US government in a minute alone than anyone else has ever had in the history of the United States,” he told the newspaper in an interview published on Saturday.
“But that’s not his goal,” said Greenwald, who published a series of stories in Britain’s Guardian newspaper based on top-secret documents about sweeping US surveillance programs that were leaked by Snowden.
His comments came as Russia waited yesterday for a promised request for asylum from Snowden.
The US wants the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor returned to them to face trial over the leaks. Moscow has so far rejected that demand.
Snowden, 30, has been stranded in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport, after the US withdrew his passport on his arrival from Hong Kong three weeks ago.
Snowden on Friday dramatically summoned Russian activists to his temporary base to say he wanted to claim asylum in Russia until he could safely travel to Latin America for a permanent sanctuary.
He withdrew an initial request earlier this month after Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would have to stop releasing information embarrassing to Washington if he wanted to stay.
On Saturday, officials in Moscow said they were still waiting for Snowden’s request.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Snowden would have to submit his application to the Federal Migration Service (FMS), Russian news agencies reported.
FMS head Konstantin Romodanovsky said on Saturday they had received nothing. If they did, he added, it would examined according to the usual procedures.
Washington has reacted sharply to the possibility that Moscow might offer Snowden a safe harbor.
“Providing a propaganda platform for Mr Snowden runs counter to the Russian government’s previous declarations of Russia’s neutrality,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
The leftist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua have all offered Snowden asylum, but Snowden said that Western governments would prevent him from travelling to the region.
A summit of the Latin American Mercosur trade bloc meeting in the Uruguayan capital Montevideo on Friday denounced four European countries who denied airspace to a plane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales back from Moscow earlier this month.
They apparently suspected that Snowden was on board.
Mercosur leaders said they would recall their ambassadors from Spain, France, Italy and Portugal for consultations in protest at the incident.