Edward Snowden, whistleblower and former National Security Agency contractor, firmly denied that he received Russian intelligence assistance in exposing surveillance programmes of the NSA, in a rare interview with the New Yorker this week.
Responding to suggestions by Republican Mike Rogers, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and Democrat Dianne Feinstein, Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, that Mr. Snowden had accepted help from the Russian FSB in getting confidential NSA documents out into the media, Mr. Snowden described such allegations as “absurd.”
In the interview Mr. Snowden added that he “clearly and unambiguously acted alone, with no assistance from anyone, much less a government.”
Mr. Snowden also had strong words for some media organisations reporting on this story, saying, that it was not only the “smears” that mystified him, but at “outlets report statements that the speakers themselves admit are sheer speculation.”
“It’s just amazing that these massive media institutions don’t have any sort of editorial position on … these… serious allegations,” he said, adding, “The media has a major role to play in American society, and they’re really abdicating their responsibility to hold power to account.”
While Mr. Snowden was granted one year of temporary asylum in Russia on August 1 2013, in his interview this week he reminded the world that he was in that country, initially stuck in the international transfer zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, only because of legal complications arising from the U.S. State Department revoking his passport and denying him the ability to fly to Cuba, as per his initial plan.
Mr. Snowden said, “Russia was never intended” to be his place of asylum, but he “was stopped en route.” He said, “I was only transiting through Russia. I was ticketed for onward travel via Havana—a planeload of reporters documented the seat I was supposed to be in…”
His revelations on the extent of the NSA’s global snooping on Internet and telephone communications, including on friendly nations such as Germany and India, has led to a pressure on the White House to reform surveillance policies.
Most recently U.S. President Barack Obama called for limited reform of these policies, pressing for greater transparency in the collection of telephone metadata and assuring leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel that their communications would not be spied upon as they had been in the past.