National Security Agency (NSA) leaker Edward Snowden called himself a patriot who simply was defending the constitution during an interview with NBC “Nightly News” broadcast on Wednesday.
The former NSA contractor told Williams during the interview held in Moscow, Russia where Snowden has been for nearly a year, that while at the NSA he had been “trained as a spy,” living and working overseas under a false name.
“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,” Snowden said.
He defended his leaking of the secret government surveillance program saying it was an “extraordinary intrusion” that needed to be told to the public because the “Constitution of the United States had been violated on a massive scale.”
Snowden cited examples, noting that NSA analysts “can actually watch people’s Internet communications, watch their Internet correspondence, watch their thoughts as they type.”
He said that the U.S. government is using the threat of terrorism “to justify programs that have never been shown to keep us safe but cost us liberties and freedoms that we don’t need to give up and our Constitution says we shouldn’t give up.”
Snowden said that he had no ties to the Russian government, which has granted him temporary asylum.
“I have no relationship with the Russian government at all,” he told NBC. “I’ve never met the Russian President. I’m not supported by the Russian government. I’m not taking money from the Russian government. I’m not a spy.”
In response, Secretary of State John Kerry told NBC: “Patriots don’t go to Russia. They don’t seek asylum in Cuba. They don’t seek asylum in Venezuela. They fight their cause here.”
Kerry called Snowden a “coward,” adding: “He is a traitor. And he has betrayed his country. And if he wants to come home tomorrow to face the music, he can do so.”