Excerpt: "In the second instalment of an interview carried out before he revealed himself as the NSA whistleblower, Snowden insisted that he was a patriot."
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. (photo: Guardian UK)
Edward Snowden: 'America Is a Fundamentally Good Country'
08 July 13
In second part of Glenn Greenwald interview, NSA whistleblower insists he is a patriot who regards the US as fundamentally good.
dward Snowden predicted more than a month ago while still in hiding in Hong Kong that the US government would seek to demonise him, telling the Guardian that he would be accused of aiding America's enemies.
In the second instalment of an interview carried out before he revealed himself as the NSA whistleblower, Snowden insisted that he was a patriot and that he regards the US as a fundamentally good country.
But he said he had chosen to release the highly classified information because freedoms were being undermined by intelligence agency "excesses".
The interview was conducted on June 6 in a hotel room in Hong Kong. The first part of the interview was released on Sunday June 9, starting a media frenzy and intensifying US efforts to track him down.
Snowden has since fled Hong Kong for Moscow, where he is reportedly marooned while resisting US attempts to extradite him to face charges under the Espionage Act.
In the newly released interview excerpts, he predicted he would be portrayed not as a whistleblower but a spy.
"I think they are going to say I have committed grave crimes, I have violated the Espionage Act. They are going to say I have aided our enemies in making them aware of these systems. But this argument can be made against anyone who reveals information that points out mass surveillance systems," he said.
Asked whether he had sought a career in the intelligence community specifically to become a mole and reveal secrets, Snowden, 30, said he had joined government service very young, first enlisting in the US army immediately after the invasion of Iraq out of a belief in "the goodness of what we were doing. I believed in the nobility of our intentions to free oppressed people overseas."
But his views shifted over the length of his career as he watched the news, which he saw as propaganda, not truth. "We were actually involved in misleading the public and misleading all the publics, not just the American public, in order to create certain mindset in the global consciousness and I was actually a victim of that."
He had not fallen out of love with America, only its government. "America is a fundamentally good country. We have good people with good values who want to do the right thing. But the structures of power that exist are working to their own ends to extend their capability at the expense of the freedom of all publics."
In the new excerpts, he explained his motivation for revealing the information. "I don't want to live in a world where everything that I say, everything I do, everyone I talk to, every expression of creativity or love or friendship is recorded," he said. "And that's not something I'm willing to support, it's not something I'm willing to build and it's not something I'm willing to live under."
He also insisted he had continued with his job while waiting for political leaders to rein in what he decribed as "government excesses".
But, he said, "as I've watched I've seen that's not occuring, and in fact we're compounding the excesses of prior governments and making it worse and more invasive. And no one is really standing to stop it."
Snowden has been attacked by his critics for first going to Hong Kong, which is part of China, even though it enjoys freedoms not available on the mainland, and to Russia. He has been offered asylum in Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua but faces the practical problem of how to get to any of these countries.
The most recent poll, for the Huffington Post and YouGov, suggested a shift in support away for Snowden, with 38% saying they feel he did the wrong thing in leaking documents against 33% who felt he did the right thing. After the first interview, 35% said he did the wrong thing while 38% said he had done the right thing.
The interview took place immediately after the Guardian published the first leak about a court order to Verizon ordering it to hand over US customers' call records to the NSA.
Snowden explained why he thought that story and the other subsequent leaks about the NSA and its partnership with the corporate sector had to be made public.
"They are getting everyone's calls, everyone's call records and everyone's internet traffic as well."
In reference to one surveillance system - Boundless Informant - that he said allowed the NSA to track data it was accumulating, he said: "The NSA lied about the existence of this tool to Congress and to specific congressmen in response to previous inquiries about their surveillance activities."
He was part of the internet generation that grew up on the understanding that it was free, he said. The partnership between the intelligence agencies and the corporate sector was a "dangerous collaboration", especially for an organisation like the the NSA that has demonstrated time and again "it works to shield itself from oversight".
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