Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor-turned whistleblower, has denied that Russian or Chinese officials obtained any part of the trove of confidential documents on the NSA’s global surveillance programmes that he handed over to journalists writing for the Guardian and Washington Post newspapers earlier this year.
Mr. Snowden, who became a fugitive after the Obama administration slapped him with charges under the Espionage Act, said in a rare interview with the New York Times this week that his passage through Hong Kong and successful asylum application to Moscow did not result in any data falling into the hands of agents in either country.
He was certain of this fact, he said, because he gave all of the classified documents in his possession to journalists that he met in Hong Kong before flying to Moscow, and did not keep any copies for himself. He added that he did not take the files to Russia “because it wouldn’t serve the public interest”.
Speaking to NYT reporter James Risen, himself the target of the U.S. Department of Justice’s effort to clamp down on reporters seeking to protect confidential sources, Mr. Snowden said, “There’s a zero per cent chance the Russians or Chinese have received any documents.”
In his comments, Mr. Snowden also appeared to rebut allegations against him by some in the U.S., including that he had endangered national security through his whistleblowing.
Expressing confidence that his inside knowledge of Chinese intelligence methods made him certain that no confidential information fell into their hands, he said, the NSA had “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.”
In the interview Mr. Snowden also recounted several instances when, during his time working as a technician in the Geneva station of the CIA, he faced repercussions for questioning his supervisors about weaknesses within the spy agency’s IT systems and what he believed to be evidence of wrong-doing within NSA surveillance programmes.
He said that his experience facing such “reprisals” from within made him believe that if he questioned the NSA’s operations any further his efforts “would have been buried forever,” and he would “have been discredited and ruined.”