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Edward Snowden is surprised he’s still in Russia and blames the State Department for him being there. The NSA leaker said so in a clip from his interview with Brian Williams that aired on Wednesday’s Today.
“The reality is I never intended to end up in Russia,” Snowden explained. “I had a flight booked to Cuba onward to Latin America, and I was stopped because the United States government decided to revoke my passport and trap me in Moscow Airport. So when people ask ‘Why are you in Russia?’ I say, ‘Please ask the State Department.’ ”
Secretary of State John Kerry hit back at Snowden’s comments in a live interview on the Wednesday edition of the NBC morning show, saying Snowden can return to the U.S. whenever he wants.
“For a supposedly smart guy, that’s a pretty dumb answer, frankly,” Kerry said. “If Mr. Snowden wants to come back to the United States today, we’ll have him on a flight today. We’d be delighted for him to come back. He should come back. That’s what a patriot would do. A patriot would not run away and look for refuge in Russia or Cuba or some other country. A patriot would stand up in the United States and make his case to the American people. He can come home, but he’s a fugitive from justice, which is why he is not being permitted to fly around the world.”
Kerry added that Snowden should trust the U.S. justice system and says the NSA leaker “stole” information and did “great damage” to the United States.
“But to be hiding in Russia, an authoritarian country, and to have just admitted he was really just trying to get to Cuba — what does that tell you?” Kerry said. “I think he’s confused. I think it’s very sad.”
Later Wednesday night when the full interview aired on NBC News, Snowden told Williams that he was “trained as a spy.”
“I was trained as a spy in sort of the traditional sense of the word, in that I lived and worked undercover overseas — pretending to work in a job that I’m not — and even being assigned a name that was not mine,” Snowden said in his first with a U.S. television network.
When asked about currently living in Moscow, the North Carolina native replied: “I have no relationship with the Russian government. I have not met the Russian president. I am not supported by the Russian government. I am not a spy [for Russia], which is the real question.”
He went on to claim that he didn’t take any documents into the Eastern European country. “The best way was to destroy the material before I entered Russia. I took nothing to Russia so that I can’t give them anything. If I look like Tweety Bird to Sylvester the Cat, that is a very dangerous thing to me,” he said.
The 30-year-old also stated that he “didn’t want to take documents that could put people’s lives at risk or cause harm. The NSA has claimed lives were at risk — that I took information about missiles and war heads,” he said, but he denies that anyone has been harmed by his actions.
In his calm and collected talk with Williams, Snowden argued that rather than being a traitor to the U.S., he is a patriot who is “still serving the government.
“Patriot is a word that is thrown around so much that it is devalued. It is about knowing when to protect your country and your constitution,” he explained.
After living in Russia for almost a year since being granted temporary asylum, Snowden revealed: “What don’t I miss? I miss my family, my home, my colleagues. I miss the work. These [the NSA] are good people trying to do hard work for good reasons.”
When it comes to staying connected to the U.S., he said he has adapted: “Thanks to the Internet, I can watch The Wire — I am in the second season.
“I may have lost my ability to travel, but I have gained the ability to go to sleep at night knowing I have done the right thing,” he said.
Watch a clip of Snowden’s interview and Kerry’s response below.
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