“I’m not asking for a pardon. I’m not asking for a pass. What I’m asking for is a fair trial.”
NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden has been giving interviews with major media outlets this week in anticipation of the release of his memoir, Permanent Record. The whistleblower has spoken about his fears of the future, his desire to return to the United States, and his views on current U.S. President Donald Trump.
In 2013 Snowden leaked classified NSA information about the agency’s mass collection of civilian phone and internet metadata. Snowden’s revelations led to over two dozen bills in Congress meant to overhaul unconstitutional warrantless government surveillance.
Snowden told the Guardian that he views the 18 years since the September 11 attacks as “a litany of American destruction by way of American self-destruction, with the promulgation of secret policies, secret laws, secret courts and secret wars.”
Snowden said the worst is yet to come if new technology is not properly understood and regulated: “The greatest danger still lies ahead, with the refinement of artificial intelligence capabilities, such as facial and pattern recognition.”
He told the Guardian’s Ewen MacAskill that his time in Moscow, where he currently lives in asylum, has provided Putin’s authoritarian government good publicity:
“A country whose political troubles are legendary, whose problems with human rights we hear about every single day has finally, somehow, managed to have one bright spot on their human rights record … Why would they give that up?”
Snowden said he yearns to leave asylum in Russia, and that he hopes to go somewhere like France, Germany or the U.S..
“I applied for asylum in France in 2013 under [former French President François] Hollande and of course we would love to see [Emmanuel] Macron roll out an invitation,” Snowden said, although Macron’s adviser has hinted that Snowden’s asylum is unlikely because it would cause diplomatic damage to France’s relationship with the U.S. “Nothing has been decided,” a Macron adviser told RTL on Monday.
Snowden told MSNBC’s Brian Williams that every one of the 27 countries he applied to for asylum in 2013 was called by either former Vice President Joe Biden or Secretary of State John Kerry and told there would be “serious consequences” if they granted the whistleblower refuge.
Snowden said the U.S. is his preferred destination and that he is not asking for a pardon, but a fair trial.
“Of course I would like to return to the United States,” Snowden told CBS. “That is the ultimate goal. But if I’m going to spend the rest of my life in prison, then one bottom-line demand that we all have to agree to is at least I get a fair trial.”
“That is the one thing the government has refused to guarantee because they won’t provide me access to what’s called a ‘public interest defense,’” he said.
“I’m not asking for a pardon. I’m not asking for a pass,” Snowden continued. “What I’m asking for is a fair trial. And this is the bottom line that any American should require. We don’t want people thrown in prison without the jury being able to decide that what they did was right or wrong.”
Of the presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders has said he’d like to see a resolution ending Snowden’s permanent exile and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has said she would pardon him. Trump meanwhile, has called him a traitor and spoke of giving the NSA leaker the death penalty. Snowden told Williams he hadn’t yet taken a position on the 2020 race, but offered an interesting analysis of the president’s psyche.
“Donald Trump strikes me like nothing so much as a man who has never really known a love that he hasn’t had to pay for,” Snowden told Williams. “And so everything that he does is informed by a kind of transactionalism. I think and what he’s actually looking for is simply for people to like him, unfortunately that produces a lot of negative effects.”
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