Update: NBC aired an expanded version of Brian Williams's interview with Edward Snowden on Wednesday night, with the pretty unsubtle tagline of "Traitor or Patriot?"
While some of the juicier quotes were previewed before airtime earlier in the day, here's a round up of some of the highlights of the hour-long special:
On what he didn't take from the NSA: "I didn’t want to take information," Snowden said, "that would cause people to die."
On why he went to the media with the NSA's surveillance programs: Snowden told NBC that he raised concerns internally about the NSA's procedures before going to a journalist with the information, only after his attempts to reform the agency from the inside failed. NBC noted that they have at least one verified email from Snowden, to the General Counsel backing up his claims, and that the network has a pending FOIA request for more.
On whether he is "blameless:" In response to a question from Williams on how he views his own actions, Snowden said "I think the most important idea is to remember that there have been times throughout history where what is right is not the same as what is legal. Sometimes to do the right thing, you have to break a law. And the key there is in terms of civil disobedience."
On his relationship with journalists: Snowden described his meeting with Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, after which he was filmed and interviewed for the Guardian: "The minute you start talking to a journalist as an intelligence officer, there is no turning back," he said. Snowden added that his agreement with the journalists who have some of his documents "demands" that they consult the government before publishing.
On why spying can be a "dirty" business: "I don’t think anybody who — who’s been in the intelligence community for almost a decade as I have been — is really shocked by the specific types of general operations when they’re justified. What’s more shocking for anybody is not the dirtiness of the business, it’s the dirtiness of the targeting. It’s the dirtiness of the way these things are being used."
On whether he is a "low level hacker:" "I was trained as a spy in the traditional sense of the word," Snowden said, referring to his time working for the CIA and the NSA "undercover" and "overseas."
On 9/11: "I’ve never told anybody this. No journalist. But I was on Fort Meade on September 11th. I was right outside the NSA. So I remember — I remember the tension of that day. I remember hearing on the radio the planes hitting. And I remember thinking my grandfather, who worked for the FBI at the time — was in the Pentagon when the plane hit it." Based on that experience, Snowden added, “I take the threat of terrorism seriously."
On whether Brian Williams's 'Burner' iPhone can still give information to the NSA: Williams gave Snowden the "burner" phone he used during his coverage of the Sochi Olympics (in order to avoid surveillance), asking him what information the NSA could retrieve on him from that object. "As soon as you turn it on," Snowden said, "it can be theirs...but its important to understand that these things are done on a targeted basis."
On whether he is a Russian spy: Snowden, again, denied that he has provided information to Putin's government: "I have no relationship with the Russian government at all," he said, adding that "I took nothing to Russia, so I could give them nothing." Snowden said, adding that he wouldn't be able to remotely access the undisclosed material he handed over to journalists even if Brian Williams handed him a laptop.
On The Wire (the television show): Snowden said that he's been watching television to pass some of the time while trapped in Russia. He did not, I repeat, did not, enjoy the second season of The Wire. It is "not so great," in his opinion.
Original Post: In a wide-ranging interview airing Wednesday evening on NBC, Edward Snowden said that "I don’t think there’s ever been any question that I’d like to go home,” but that the amnesty or clemency deal that would convince him to do so is in the hands of the U.S. government. Speaking to Brian Williams in Moscow, the full interview will air starting at 10 p.m., Eastern. On Wednesday evening, NBC released a new clip from the interview:
Reiterating that he believes he leaked information about the NSA's bulk collection programs as a way to serve his country, Snowden reminded Williams that he more or less destroyed a pretty sweet life to leak to the press:
“I think it’s important to remember that people don’t set their lives on fire, they don’t say goodbye to their families — actually pack up without saying goodbye to their families — they don’t walk away from their extraordinary — extraordinarily comfortable lives — I mean, I made a lot of money for a guy with no high school diploma — and, and, and burn down everything they love for no reason.”
A portion of this interview has already made Secretary of State John Kerry really mad. Earlier on Wednesday, NBC released another set of preview clips, where the whistleblower said that he was "trained as a spy," to push back against the idea that he was simply a "low-level hacker."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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