By Sandy Fitzgerald
Former government contractor Edward Snowden, who’s been given asylum by Russia after leaking National Security Agency secrets, is criticizing a panel established by President Barack Obama’s to review U.S. surveillance programs as a sham designed to do nothing more than restore public confidence in spying activities.
“Their job wasn’t to protect privacy or deter abuses, it was to ‘restore public confidence’ in these spying activities,” Snowden said in an email exchange with Globo TV in Brazil, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.
The review panel last week recommended sweeping limits in the government’s surveillance programs, including requiring a court to sign off on individual searches of phone records and stripping the NSA of its ability to store that data collected from Americans.
In the email exchange with Globo, Snowden continued to defend his public release of classified information about NSA surveillance programs, describing himself again as a whistleblower and not traitor. Snowden, who earlier this year fled from his NSA job in Hawaii for Hong Kong, and later Russia, after handing over secret information to reporters, said he does not believe he would be treated justly if he returns to the United States because he has embarrassed the Obama administration and the U.S. intelligence community.
“It’s clear that I could not possibly get a fair trial in my country,” he insisted.
Snowden is reportedly seeking permanent asylum in several countries, including Brazil. For now, he lives in Russia under temporary asylum. But he denied in the interview that he has offered Brazil and other countries information about U.S. spying operations against them in return for asylum.
“I will never exchange information for asylum and I don’t think the Brazilian government would do that either,” Snowden reportedly told Globo. “A grant of asylum should always be a purely humanitarian decision . . . I will never cooperate with anyone outside of a lawful and appropriate manner.”
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