In a live chat on the Guardian website this morning, NSA leaker-on-the-run Edward Snowden claimed he fled because the U.S. government “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,” Snowden said in the chat hosted by the author of the leak article, Glenn Greenwald. “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.”
“Let’s be clear: I did not reveal any US operations against legitimate military targets. I pointed out where the NSA has hacked civilian infrastructure such as universities, hospitals, and private businesses because it is dangerous. These nakedly, aggressively criminal acts are wrong no matter the target,” Snowden continued.
“Not only that, when NSA makes a technical mistake during an exploitation operation, critical systems crash. Congress hasn’t declared war on the countries – the majority of them are our allies – but without asking for public permission, NSA is running network operations against them that affect millions of innocent people. And for what? So we can have secret access to a computer in a country we’re not even fighting? So we can potentially reveal a potential terrorist with the potential to kill fewer Americans than our own Police? No, the public needs to know the kinds of things a government does in its name, or the ‘consent of the governed’ is meaningless,” he said.
“All I can say right now is the US Government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me. Truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped.”
When asked why he didn’t fly to Iceland, his preferred country for asylum, Snowden said “leaving the US was an incredible risk, as NSA employees must declare their foreign travel 30 days in advance and are monitored.”
“There was a distinct possibility I would be interdicted en route, so I had to travel with no advance booking to a country with the cultural and legal framework to allow me to work without being immediately detained. Hong Kong provided that,” he said. “Iceland could be pushed harder, quicker, before the public could have a chance to make their feelings known, and I would not put that past the current US administration.”
Snowden checked out of his Hong Kong hotel a week ago and hasn’t been seen since.
When asked whether he lied about his salary — Booz Allen Hamilton said he earned $122,000 in Hawaii, while Snowden told Greenwald he walked away from $200,000 a year — Snowden said he was referring to his “career high” salary. “I had to take pay cuts in the course of pursuing specific work. Booz was not the most I’ve been paid,” he said.
One questioner asked why he waited until President Obama’s term to leak the information about the surveillance programs.
“Obama’s campaign promises and election gave me faith that he would lead us toward fixing the problems he outlined in his quest for votes. Many Americans felt similarly,” Snowden responded. “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 Guantanamo, where men still sit without charge.”
Snowden promised “more detail on how direct NSA’s accesses are [sic] is coming.”