Edward Snowden, the American whistleblower charged with espionage after releasing to journalists a trove of classified documents that exposed the government’s mass surveillance program, wants to return to the U.S., but only if guaranteed a fair trial.
In a Monday interview with “CBS This Morning,” the former National Security Agency contractor who lives in exile in Russia said the U.S. has not agreed to give him a public interest defense, which would allow him to attempt to prove that his leaks were for the greater good.
Instead, Snowden claimed the government “wants to have a different kind of trial.”
“They want to use special procedures, they want to be able to close the courtroom, they want the public not to be able to go, know what’s going on,” he said. “And, essentially, the most important fact to the government ― and this is the thing we have a point of contention on ― is that they do not want the jury to be able to consider the motivations, why I did what I did.”
Though Snowden acknowledged that “it’s not hard to make the argument that I broke the law” with his 2013 document dump, he argued that the government has not been able to show that he harmed national security.
“We’ve never heard that story,” he said. “If they had some classified evidence that a hair on a single person’s head was harmed, you know as well as I do, it would be on the front page of The New York Times by the end of the day.”
In September 2016, the House Intelligence Committee released a scathing report contending that Snowden “caused tremendous damage” to the country’s safety, dismissing any notions that he was a benevolent whistleblower as he has portrayed himself.
In June 2018, Bill Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said that journalists had only published about 1% of the files Snowden obtained, and that he doesn’t “see this issue ending anytime soon,” The Associated Press reported.
Evanina also claimed that following Snowden’s 2013 departure from the U.S., “there have been thousands of articles around the world with really sensitive stuff that’s been leaked.”
Snowden said Monday that a U.S. court should give him the opportunity to justify his actions by answering certain questions he feels are key to his case.
“Was it better for the United States? Did it benefit us or did it cause harm? [Government officials] don’t want the jury to consider that at all,” he said. “They want the jury strictly to consider whether these actions were lawful or unlawful, not whether they were right or wrong. And I’m sorry, but that defeats the purpose of a jury trial.”
Snowden’s interview comes just one day before his memoir, “Permanent Record,” is set to be released, sharing his side of the story.