Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor and infamous leaker of the agency’s massive surveillance program, is again asking the government to allow him to return to the United States and stand trial for his alleged crimes.
In an exclusive video interview with The New Yorker on Saturday, Snowden said government officials had routinely declined his requests to allow him to come back and stand trial.
“I’m allowed to make my case before a jury. I would love to do so,” Snowden said by video feed from an undisclosed location in Russia.
Snowden, 31, was charged in June with “unauthorized communication of national defense information” and “willful communication of classified intelligence information to an unauthorized person” under the Patriot Act.
Many officials and analysts have slammed Snowden for his controversial actions, maintaining he should have used established agency whistleblowing channels to report what he perceived as wrongdoing instead of stealing highly classified documents, sharing them with others and leaving the country – not to mention compromising the ability of the U.S. to continue gathering information through those surveillance channels.
Snowden and his supporters, however, have argued strenuously against using government channels – saying that although federal laws might provide some protection for whistleblowers, there’s precious little protection against retaliation.
Snowden told The New Yorker he doesn’t regret the actions he took to reveal the NSA’s surveillance program – and said he believes it was worth it.
“It was about getting the information back to people so they could decide if they cared about it, ” Snowden said. “I could not have been more wrong in thinking that people wouldn’t care.”
Snowden’s revelations sparked a massive national debate about how far the government can and should go in the name of national security.
The highly charged issue prompted lawmakers to sponsor measures that aim to scale back the government’s surveillance program. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced a measure in July, for example, that would dramatically limit the NSA’s controversial spying programs.
Snowden predicted the U.S. Supreme Court would eventually strike down the spying program.
“These programs themselves are unconstitutional,” he told journalist Jane Mayer of The New Yorker. “I am confident the Supreme Court will agree these programs went too far.”
The interview came on the heels of the screening of a new documentary, CitizenFour. It tells the story of Snowden’s controversial leaks and his work with journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, who broke the story last year.
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