Edward Snowden has said that he decided to flee America before making his dramatic revelations about the National Security Agency’s (NSA) mass surveillance tactics because he did not believe he would get a fair trial in his native country. Declaring that he would not be cowed into silence by threats of prosecution — or even assassination — he also hinted at more disclosures.
“The U.S. government, just as they did with other whistleblowers, immediately and predictably destroyed any possibility of a fair trial at home, openly declaring me guilty of treason and that the disclosure of secret, criminal, and even unconstitutional acts is an unforgivable crime. That’s not justice, and it would be foolish to volunteer yourself to it if you can do more good outside of prison than in it,” he said in a live Q&A with The Guardian readers.
He also said, “All I can say right now is the U.S. government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me. Truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped.”
Mr. Snowden, reported to be hiding in a safe-house in Hong Kong, rejected allegations that he had cut a deal with the Chinese government, giving them classified documents in exchange for them providing him an eventual safe haven.
“Ask yourself: if I were a Chinese spy, why wouldn’t I have flown directly into Beijing? I could be living in a palace petting a phoenix by now,” he joked.
Discussing a wide range of issues he said he was forced to go public after the U.S. administration under President Barack Obama continued to pursue the Bush-era policies. He had hoped things would change under Mr. Obama, but ended up disillusioned.
“Unfortunately, shortly after assuming power, he closed the door on investigating systemic violations of law, deepened and expanded several abusive programs, and refused to spend the political capital to end the kind of human rights violations like we see in Guantánamo, where men still sit without charge,” Mr. Snowden said.
He said he chose Hong Kong as a base because it provided a “cultural and legal framework to allow me to work without being immediately detained”.
Denying that he had committed any crime by leaking NSA documents, Mr. Snowden said that, on the contrary, he saw himself as someone who had exposed wrongdoing.
Taking a dig at right-wing American politicians who had accused him of treason, he said:
“It’s important to bear in mind I’m being called a traitor by men like former Vice- President Dick Cheney. This is a man who gave us the warrantless wiretapping scheme as a kind of atrocity warm-up on the way to deceitfully engineering a conflict that has killed over 4,400 and maimed nearly 32,000 Americans, as well as leaving over 100,000 Iraqis dead. Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honour you can give an American.”
His remarks came as Russia and Turkey reacted furiously to revelations that their leaders were “spied on and bugged” by British and American intelligence agencies during the G20 summit in London in 2009. Russian officials warned that the disclosure would put further strain on the already tense U.S.-Russian relations, while the Turkish foreign ministry summoned the British ambassador in Ankara for an explanation.