In a lengthy, two-day interview with Barton Gellman of the Washington Post, Edward Snowden gave a powerful and patriotic defense of his actions in disclosing the NSA’s massive surveillance programs. As for his violating any oath of secrecy, Snowden noted the nondisclosure agreement for classified-information is merely a civil contract. He signed it, writes Gellman, but he pledged his fealty elsewhere. “The oath of allegiance is not an oath of secrecy,” Snowden declared. “That is an oath to the Constitution. That is the oath that I kept, that Keith Alexander and James Clapper did not” — referring to the NSA Director and the Director of National Intelligence who lied and covered up up the NSA dragnet surveillance program. Snowden compared the NSA program to the use of general warrants by the British in Colonial America. “The last time that happened, we fought a war over it,” he said.
In the interview, conducted in Moscow this month, Snowden also said that people who accuse him of disloyalty mistake his purpose. “I am not trying to bring down the NSA, I am working to improve the NSA… I am still working for the NSA right now. They are the only ones who don’t realize it.”
Snowden described how, earlier, he had brought up his misgivings about the NSA program with his superiors at the NSA, and also with a number of colleagues, who, he said, were often astonished to learn that the NSA is collecting more data in the United States on Americans, than on Russians in Russia. He said many of them were troubled, and several said they did not want to know any more.
He explained that he came to the realization that he — as an individual — had to act, after seeing how Congressional oversight committees and NSA officials kept these unconstitutional surveillance programs from the public: “You have the capability,” he said, referring to himself, “and you realize every other [person] sitting around the table has the same capability — but they don’t do it. So somebody has to be the first.”
Snowden said that he has already accomplished, what he set out to do. “For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished. I already won. As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated. Because, remember, I didn’t want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself. All I wanted was for the public to be able to have a say in how they are governed.”
And as for charges that he is a traitor, or that he voluntarily went to Russia or China to give them information, Snowden said that he has given no information to either country, and he declared: “If I defected at all, I defected from the government to the public.”