WASHINGTON – Fugitive US whistleblower Edward Snowden has declared “mission accomplished”, saying he leaked documents of secret surveillance by America’s National Security Agency (NSA) to let it conduct itself properly.
Snowden told The Washington Post in an interview published Monday night that he was satisfied with what he has done.
“For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished,” he said.
“I already won. As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated. Because, remember, I didn’t want to change society.
“I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself. All I wanted was for the public to be able to have a say in how they are governed.”
He told the Post that his colleagues at the NSA had been concerned with the way the agency was spying on “more Americans in America than Russians in Russia”.
He said they were not entirely comfortable with the data collected on “ordinary” citizens.
This is the first interview Snowden conducted in person since he arrived in Moscow in June. Russia has granted him temporary asylum.
He leaked loads of top-secret documents to journalists, revealing how America’s NSA was conducting global surveillance system after the attacks of Sep 11, 2001.
Secret legal authorities empowered the NSA to sweep in the telephone, Internet and location records of whole populations.
He said he once asked his NSA colleagues how they thought the public would react if information was reported on the front page of a newspaper and brought his concerns to at least four superiors and 15 colleagues at the NSA.
He even noted that critics have accused him of bypassing internal channels of dissent. “How is that not reporting it? How is that not raising it?” he said.
He said he even suggested changing NSA systems so there would need to be a second authorisation for copying files to a hard drive but was rejected.
Had the suggestion been implemented, he said, he wouldn’t have been able to copy all the files he took.
“I am not trying to bring down the NSA, I am working to improve the NSA,” Snowden said.
“I am still working for the NSA right now. They are the only ones who don’t realise it.”
An NSA spokeswoman also denied those conversations had taken place.
NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines in a written statement to The Post said: “After extensive investigation, including interviews with his former NSA supervisors and co-workers, we have not found any evidence to support Mr. Snowden’s contention that he brought these matters to anyone’s attention.”