(Moscow) The NSA gathers more data on American citizens than it does about foreigners, Edward Snowden has said. During an acceptance speech for a “truth-telling” prize, the whistleblower attacked NSA head, James Clapper, for lying about US surveillance.
“We watch our own people more closely than anyone else in the world,” said Edward Snowden, appearing in a live video link at the 11th annual Ridenhour Prizes ceremony in Washington. He was greeted by a standing ovation from the audience when he received the Ridenhour Award for “Truth-Telling.”
During his speech, the whistleblower said he leaked thousands of classified government documents, detailing the NSA’s mass surveillance programs because “it was the right thing to do, and now I see I’m not the only one who felt that way.”
“I thought the most likely outcome would be spending the rest of my life in prison,” said Snowden.
He also criticized the Senate and the House Intelligence committees for their lack of oversight on the NSA and the intelligence community. Leveling criticism at the NSA’s director, James Clapper, Snowden blasted him for his “famous lie” during a speech last year.
In a testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee last March, Clapper stated that the NSA did “not wittingly gather any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.” It was later revealed in Snowden’s documents that the agency does collect metadata indiscriminately from American telephone and internet companies. This prompted Clapper to go back on his statement, admitting it was “erroneous” in an apology letter to Congress.
“When Clapper raised his hand and lied to the American public, was anyone tried? Were any charges brought?” Snowden asked. “Within 24 hours of going public, I had three charges against me.”
The 30–year-old former CIA contractor-turned whistleblower is currently residing in Russia, where he was granted temporary asylum last year after he fled the US. In response to the massive security leaks, Washington filed for Snowden’s extradition and charged him with theft, “unauthorized communication of national defense information” and “willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person” under the Espionage Act.
Snowden’s visa will expire this June, but the whistleblower’s lawyer, Jesselyn Radack, says they are confident his visa will be extended for another year.
“Obviously, he misses America and would like to be able to come home,” his attorney, Jesselyn Radack, told Reuters. “We just don’t see that happening in the near future.”
Radack added that Snowden was open for negotiation with the US Justice Department, but he will not be returning home “to be prosecuted for espionage.”