Global Politics

Edward Snowden is OK with what he's given up to start a debate on surveillance

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Credit:

The Guardian

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden is speaking out for the first time since receiving asylum in Russia.

Edward Snowden's decision to leak a huge cache of top secret documents ranks among the most talked-about stories of 2013.

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.)

And while the former NSA contractor seems to be living a quiet life in Moscow these days, he's started to emerge. He sat for a lengthy interview with the Washington Post and is slated to release a Christmas video on Wednesday.

The holiday message reportedly warns of the dangers of mass surveillance. 

For his interview with the Washington Post, he spoke with contributor Barton Gellman. Gellman was one of the three journalists who received Snowden's trove of secret documents last spring.  

Gellman says, for the most part, Snowden is holed-up in his Moscow residence, aware that he's the focus of intense interest. He didn't part the curtains or step outside during their 14-hours of interviews. 

"He is a guy who spends a lot of time in front of the screen and always has. He lives on Ramen noodles and chips and he's pretty happy with that," Gellman says. 

Snowden told Gellman about conversations he had with colleagues at the NSA long before he went ahead with the massive document leak. Many of his colleagues, he said, were troubled to learn US intelligence agencies "are collecting more in the United States on Americans than we are on Russians in Russia."

And, Gellman said, Snowden found some support for his critique with the US intelligence community.  

"He can't claim to speak for the majority. No one polls inside a secret organization of 30,000 people to see who is supporting the program and who is not. Clearly he believes that the great majority there believe in what they're doing, believe that they have an important mission," Gellman said.  "But [Snowden] said that quite a few people who he talked to shared his qualms about how far they go." 

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