Edward Snowden said in an interview with NBC News that aired Wednesday that he has developed no relationship with Russia or Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Snowden, a former systems analyst for the National Security Agency, downloaded intelligence documents while working for a private contractor and released them to U.S. and international news publications. The documents were the first public confirmation that the U.S. government was collecting vast amounts of telephone and email data on ordinary Americans in the U.S. and on citizens of allied nations abroad.
Snowden told NBC's Brian Williams that, while he has been living under temporary asylum in Russia to avoid being seized by the U.S. and put on trial for espionage, he has kept his distance from the country and its leader.
"I have no relationship with the Russian government, I've never met the Russian president. I'm not supported by the Russian government. I'm not taking money from the Russian government," Snowden said. "I'm not a spy, which is the real question."
He added that he didn't bring any NSA documents to Russia, and can't access them remotely.
"I took nothing to Russia so I could give them nothing," he said.
The interview was Snowden's first conversation with a U.S. television network since June 2013, when the U.S. revoked his passport, leaving him unable to leave Russia. The interview was months in the making, culminating in a five-hour meeting at Hotel Baltschug Kempinski in Moscow.
During the interview, Snowden claimed that the State Department is responsible for him being in Russia.
"The reality is I never intended to end up in Russia," Snowden said. "I had a flight booked to Cuba onwards to Latin America and I was stopped because the United States government decided to revoke my passport and trap me in Moscow Airport."
Secretary of State John Kerry responded to the charge Wednesday morning in a live interview with NBC's "Today" show.
"If Mr. Snowden wants to come back to the United States, we'll have him on a flight today," Kerry said, suggesting Snowden should "stand up in the United States and make his case to the American people."