WASHINGTON May 28 Former U.S. spy agency
contractor Edward Snowden told a U.S. television interviewer he
would like to go home from asylum in Moscow, but that if
necessary he would seek to extend his stay in Russia.
U.S. officials said he was welcome to return to the United
States if he wanted to face justice for leaking details of
massive U.S. intelligence-gathering programs.
"If I could go anywhere in the world, that place would be
home," Snowden told NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams in an
excerpt from the interview that aired on Wednesday.
Asked how anxious he was to make a deal to return to the
United States, Snowden replied: "My priority is not about
myself. It's about making sure that these programs are reformed
- and that the family that I left behind, the country that I
left behind - can be helped by my actions."
He added that if his one-year asylum in Russia, which
expires on Aug. 1, "looks like it's going to run out, then of
course I would apply for an extension."
Snowden, who fled to Hong Kong and then Moscow last year,
is believed to have taken 1.7 million computerized documents.
The leaked documents revealed massive programs run by the NSA
that gathered information on emails, phone calls and Internet
use by hundreds of millions of Americans.
He was charged last year in the United States with theft of
government property, unauthorized communication of national
defense information and willful communication of classified
intelligence to an unauthorized person.
Secretary of State John Kerry invited Snowden to "man up and
come back to the United States."
"The bottom line is this is a man who has betrayed his
country, who is sitting in Russia, an authoritarian country
where he has taken refuge," Kerry told the CBS "This Morning"
program on Wednesday.
"If he has a complaint about what's the matter with American
surveillance, come back here and stand in our system of justice
and make his case," Kerry said.
Saying he saw himself as a patriot, Snowden said: "The
reality is the situation determined that this needed to be told
to the public. The Constitution of the United States had been
violated on a massive scale.
"I think it's important to remember that people don't set
their lives on fire, they don't say goodbye to their families
... they don't walk away from their extraordinarily comfortable
lives ... and burn down everything they love for no reason."
U.S. officials also fired back at Snowden's comments in an
excerpt from the NBC interview that aired on Tuesday in which he
said he was trained as a spy and had worked undercover overseas
for the U.S. government.
Asked by CNN if that were true, White House national
security adviser Susan Rice replied: "No."
(Reporting by Peter Cooney; Editing by Ken Wills)