The New York Times reports: 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.
In a wide-ranging interview over several days in the last week, Mr. Snowden offered detailed responses to accusations that have been leveled against him by American officials and other critics, provided new insights into why he became disillusioned with the N.S.A. and decided to disclose the documents, and talked about the international debate over surveillance that resulted from the revelations. The interview took place through encrypted online communications. [Continue reading…]