The National Security Agency (NSA) and its national security surveillance state fellow travelers like Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) have been propagating the meme that whistleblower Edward Snowden is a traitor. Not just because he made public their unconstitutional domestic spying operations, but also because, they hint, his downloaded data must have fallen into the hands of the Russian and Chinese spy agencies. Not so, says Snowden in a New York Times article today:
Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, said in an extensive interview this month that he did not take any secret N.S.A. documents with him to Russia when he fled there in June, assuring that Russian intelligence officials could not get access to them.
Mr. Snowden said he gave all of the classified documents he had obtained to journalists he met in Hong Kong, before flying to Moscow, and did not keep any copies for himself. He did not take the files to Russia "because it wouldn't serve the public interest," he said.
"What would be the unique value of personally carrying another copy of the materials onward?" he added.
He also asserted that he was able to protect the documents from China's spies because he was familiar with that nation's intelligence abilities, saying that as an N.S.A. contractor he had targeted Chinese operations and had taught a course on Chinese cybercounterintelligence.
"There's a zero percent chance the Russians or Chinese have received any documents," he said.
American intelligence officials have expressed grave concern that the files might have fallen into the hands of foreign intelligence services, but Mr. Snowden said he believed that the N.S.A. knew he had not cooperated with the Russians or the Chinese. He said he was publicly revealing that he no longer had any agency documents to explain why he was confident that Russia had not gained access to them. He had been reluctant to disclose that information previously, he said, for fear of exposing the journalists to greater scrutiny.
Snowden further explained to the Times why he decided to make reveal this domestic spying program:
"If the highest officials in government can break the law without fearing punishment or even any repercussions at all," he said, "secret powers become tremendously dangerous."
That's exactly right.
See also, my post about Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg's argument for why Snowden is right to stay to Russia.