Edward Snowden says his “mission’s already accomplished.”
In an interview with The Washington Post from Moscow, Snowden said he believed he had won his fight with the U.S. government and said that he didn't defect from his country, he defected from his government.
“For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished,” he said. “I already won. As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated. Because, remember, I didn’t want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself.”
Snowden made the comments in 14 hours of interviews he conducted recently with Post reporter Barton Gellman, one of the first journalists Snowden began leaking National Security Agency documents to in June.
The former government contractor fled the U.S., first for Hong Kong and then to Moscow, where he was given temporary asylum.
His leaks made the public aware of sweeping NSA programs that culled data from millions of phone calls and that monitored foreign emails.
Other leaks cast light on the monitoring of phone calls and emails of world leaders, triggering diplomatic problems for the Obama administration.
Snowden has long said he did what he did to make the country a better place.
“All I wanted was for the public to be able to have a say in how they are governed,” he said in the interview with the Post. “That is a milestone we left a long time ago. Right now, all we are looking at are stretch goals.”
Snowden's future is unclear. His temporary amnesty in Russia is up next year, and he has sought refuge in other countries, such as Brazil.
While there has been some talk of giving Snowden amnesty as part of a deal in which he would turn over the remaining documents in his possession, President Obama last week declined to endorse that idea.
The former contractor has leaked at least 200,000 documents to journalists around the world, according to NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander. One of his deputies, Rick Leggett, also revealed in a recent “60 Minutes” interview that Snowden allegedly stole as many as 1.7 million documents.
Top U.S. and British intelligence officials have feared the worst has yet to come because they suspect he may have access to a 'doomsday' cache of files.
“I am not trying to bring down the NSA. I am working to improve the NSA,” Snowden said in the interview. “I am still working for the NSA right now. They are the only ones who don’t realize it.”
While the U.S. might not drop its criminal charges against Snowden, it will likely change some of its surveillance programs at the NSA because of his leaks.
Last week, Obama was presented with a review done by a panel tasked with evaluating the reach of NSA operations. Obama is expected to disclose some of its recommendations and his decisions to modify programs in January.
A federal judge last week ruled the NSA's bulk collection of phone data is likely unconstitutional.