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article imageSnowden: No chance Russia or China got leaked documents

By Robert Myles     Oct 18, 2013 in Politics
New York - In his latest interview, in the New York Times, Edward Snowden, the ex-National Security Agency (NSA) consultant accused of leaking thousands of sensitive documents concerning NSA surveillance, says he took none of the leaked documents to Russia.
Snowden’s assertion seems designed to deflect claims previously made by the US authorities that NSA leaked documents, in the wrong hands, would prejudice national security. In his interview, Snowden told the New York Times he had delivered all the documents in his possession to journalists whom he met in Hong Kong after fleeing the US, May 20, 2013. Snowden subsequently took a flight to Moscow airport. He said taking the files with him to Russia “wouldn’t serve the public interest.”
Since then, Snowden has been granted limited political asylum in Russia for one year, enabling him to quit Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport, where he took refuge for almost six weeks after leaving Hong Kong. Washington has repeatedly asserted that Snowden should be extradited back to the United Sates to face charges of espionage and theft of government property.
Referring to the possibility of leaked documents falling into the hands of foreign governments during the time Snowden has spent in Hong Kong and Russia, Snowden said, “There’s a zero percent chance the Russians or Chinese have received any documents.”
US intelligence chiefs have, on a number of occasions, expressed concerns their Chinese and Russian counterparts would have been able to gain access to sensitive material in Snowden’s possession. Snowden dismissed such claims saying his experience gained while working with the NSA enabled him to protect these documents from Chinese intelligence during his time spent in Hong Kong.
Since Snowden claims to have divested himself of any sensitive baggage by passing files to journalists before departing Hong Kong, the question of such files falling into Russian hands appears not to arise.
Snowden gave an assurance that all the leaked documents and digital files were passed to journalists Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill of the Guardian, and independent filmmaker Laura Poitras, when Snowden was in Hong Kong. Snowden said his retaining the documents wasn't in the public interest, adding, “What would be the unique value of personally carrying another copy of materials onward?”
Snowden also said he believes the NSA is fully aware that he didn’t cooperate with foreign intelligence services, saying it was never his intention to offer his services to Russia or China.
In the same interview, Snowden also defended his leaking of thousands of security documents. He said if he hadn’t blown the cover on the extent of National Security Agency surveillance, his concerns over NSA spying on individuals “would have been buried forever.”
Explaining his decision to go public, Snowden said if he’d raised his concerns using the NSA’s internal processes, he would have been "discredited and ruined," adding, with reference to the NSA’s internal reporting, that "the system does not work."
In the past, Snowden has been criticised by the US administration for not following the NSA’s own procedures on whistle-blowing. But, as The Guardian reports, Snowden dismissed that approach as unrealistic, highlighting the paradox that “you have to report wrongdoing to those most responsible for it.”
Queried on his motives Snowden said his interest on legality of NSA wiretaps was aroused by the revelations of Pulitzer prize-winning journalist James Risen. It was Risen who, along with a colleague, had unearthed the extent of warrant-less wiretapping carried out by the NSA during the G.W. Bush administration.
Snowden said he was shocked to learn the extent of the surveillance, telling the interviewer, “If the highest officials in government can break the law without fearing punishment or even any repercussions at all, secret powers become tremendously dangerous.”
These revelations persuaded Snowden to act, he says, in the interests of the many. Snowden’s concern was, he said, that, “the secret continuance of these programs represents a far greater danger than their disclosure.”
Snowden also said he had no problem with such programs being conducted with full public knowledge but that such was not the case with the NSA surveillance operations as disclosed in the leaked documents.
Snowden continued, “So long as there’s broad support amongst a people, it can be argued there’s a level of legitimacy even to the most invasive and morally wrong program, as it was an informed and willing decision. However, programs that are implemented in secret, out of public oversight, lack that legitimacy, and that’s a problem. It also represents a dangerous normalization of ‘governing in the dark,’ where decisions with enormous public impact occur without any public input.”
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