Snowden says his mission is accomplished

Washington, Dec 25: Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor who disclosed the agency’s secrets and forced the US government to revaluate its surveillance policies, has said his mission has been accomplished.

“For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished,” Snowden told the Washington Post in his first in-person interview published online Tuesday since his June arrival in Russia, which granted him a one-year temporary asylum, Xinhua reported.

“I already won. As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated,” said Snowden, whose revelations showed secret legal authorities empowered the NSA to sweep in the telephone, internet and location records of whole populations.

“Because, remember, I didn’t want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself,” Snowden said.

“All I want was for the public to be able to have a say in how they are governed,” he said. “That is a milestone we left a long time ago. Right now, all we are looking at are stretch goals.”

At his year-end news conference held Friday, US President Barack Obama defended the NSA’s domestic spying programmes while promising some reforms in the upcoming new year.

Obama said he would review the reform recommendations by a presidential advisory panel during his holiday break starting Friday, and would make a “pretty definitive statement” in January about some reforms.

Obama’s comments came in a week in which a federal judge declared the NSA’s collection programme probably was unconstitutional.

Snowden was interviewed in Moscow by Barton Gellman, a Post reporter who has received leaks from the former NSA contractor. Snowden’s first revelations were initially published by the Post and the Guardian of Britain in June.

“He was relaxed and animated over two days of nearly unbroken conversation, fueled by burgers, pasta, ice cream and Russian pastry,” Gellman said of Snowden.

Snowden, 30, has been charged with espionage, theft and unauthorised communication of national defence and intelligence information.

He said people who accuse him of disloyalty mistake his purpose. “I am not trying to bring down the NSA, I am working to improve the NSA. I am still working for the NSA right now. They are the only ones who don’t realise it.”

Snowden’s revelations have outraged not only Americans and technical companies but also US allies, angered by documents showing that the US was monitoring their leaders’ phone calls and other virtual communications.