Edward Snowden would return to the U.S. under certain conditions to face criminal charges related to leaking classified material to the media, the former National Security Agency contractor said.
Speaking from Moscow, Mr. Snowden said in an interview Thursday that he would agree to stand trial if jurors were told why he decided to leak classified documents to reporters and allowed to review the material for themselves, NPR reported.
“You can’t have a fair trial about the disclosure of information unless the jury can evaluate whether it was right or wrong to reveal this information,” Mr. Snowden said, NPR reported.
Mr. Snowden, 36, admittedly provided a trove of classified U.S. documents to reporters, including material detailing the federal government’s surveillance operations and capabilities both domestically and abroad, triggering a wide range of reactions in the years since. President Trump has called him a “traitor” worthy of execution, while supporters have credited him with calling attention to and reforming the NSA’s previously secretive surveillance apparatus.
“No one becomes a whistleblower because they want to,” Mr. Snowden told NPR. “No one becomes a whistleblower because it has a happy ending.”
Mr. Snowden, a former CIA employee-turned-intelligence contractor, fled to Hong Kong prior to the first reports about the documents being published in June 2013. He was revealed as the source shortly afterward and charged by the U.S. Department of Justice with violating the Espionage Act of 1917 and stealing government property, and the U.S. State Department subsequently canceled his passport.
Mr. Snowden managed to leave Hong Kong despite lacking a valid U.S. passport, but he soon became stranded when his flight landed in Moscow while effectively stateless. Russia granted him asylum weeks later and he has lived in the country ever since.
“It was not my choice to be here, and this is what people forget. … It was not my choice to live in Russia,” he told NPR.
Mr. Snowden said he has repeatedly taken aim at Russian President Vladimir Putin and his policies, rejecting claims that he has benefited the Kremlin.
“I’m constantly criticizing the Russian government’s policy, the Russian government’s human rights record, even the Russian president by name,” Mr. Snowden told NPR. “I had nothing to provide them. I have been criticizing the Russian government. What more can I do to satisfy you or any of these critics? There is nothing that will satisfy them. … It is their distrust of Russia.”
Mr. Snowden faces a maximum sentence of 30 years imprisonment if found guilty of the charges unsealed against him.
The Justice Department did not immediately return a message request comment.