While there's no sign of an end to the flow of leaked National Security Agency documents, Edward Snowden says he feels like his mission has already been accomplished. Speaking to a Washington Post reporter for more than 14 hours of interviews in Moscow, Snowden explained that he acted out of fear that a huge government surveillance machine was operating virtually unchecked.
- "For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished. I already won," Snowden says. "I didn’t want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself." All he wanted, he says, "is for the public to be able to have a say in how they are governed. That is a milestone we left a long time ago. Right now, all we are looking at are stretch goals."
- Snowden says he is not disloyal to the NSA, but loyal to the Constitution. "I am not trying to bring down the NSA, I am working to improve the NSA," he says. "I am still working for the NSA right now. They are the only ones who don’t realize it." Snowden says that he tried to persuade his superiors at the agency to make it harder to steal documents, though the NSA says there is no record of this.
- He says that when he first started having misgivings about the colossal amount of information the NSA was gathering on ordinary Americans, he raised his concerns with superiors and reached out to colleagues. "I asked these people, 'What do you think the public would do if this was on the front page?'" he says.
- He says privacy should be considered a universal right. "I don’t care whether you’re the pope or Osama bin Laden," he says. "As long as there’s an individualized, articulable, probable cause for targeting these people as legitimate foreign intelligence, that’s fine. I don’t think it’s imposing a ridiculous burden by asking for probable cause. Because, you have to understand, when you have access to the tools the NSA does, probable cause falls out of trees."
- Snowden says he shrugs off the NSA's personal attacks on him—and suggestions that he will drink himself to death in Moscow like other defectors. He says he lives as "ascetic" lifestyle, preferring to stay at home. "Occasionally there’s things to go do, things to go see, people to meet, tasks to accomplish. But it’s really got to be goal-oriented, you know," he says. "Otherwise, as long as I can sit down and think and write and talk to somebody, that’s more meaningful to me than going out and looking at landmarks."
- Snowden says he didn't choose Moscow as his final destination and insists that he has no loyalties to Russia, China, or any other country but the US. "If I defected at all," he says, "I defected from the government to the public."
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