Edward Snowden gave his first U.S. television interview to NBC's Brian Williams last night, almost one year after he was first revealed as the NSA contractor who leaked documents about the U.S. government's digital surveillance techniques.
Snowden has been in Russia since the country granted him a one-year asylum last August. Since then, he's come under considerable fire from U.S. officials, particularly from Congressman Mike Rogers, who has accused Snowden of working under Russian influence. Snowden contends that this isn't true.
"I have no relationship with the Russian government at all," he told Williams.
But while in Russia, Snowden has been able to evade prosecution from the U.S., which is more than ready to take him to court for violations of the Espionage Act.
"When people say, 'Why don't you go home and face the music?,' I say, you have to understand that the music is not an open court and a fair trial," he said. "I think the most important idea is to remember that there have been times throughout history where what is right is not the same as what is legal. Sometimes to do the right thing, you have to break a law. And the key there is in terms of civil disobedience."
Last month, the New York Times reported that Snowden had retained the services of Plato Cacheris, a lawyer who specializes in Espionage Act charges, last year to negotiate a potential plea deal with the U.S. government. He even defended the NSA to a point.
"People have unfairly demonized the NSA to a point that's too extreme," he said. "These are good people, trying to do hard work for good reasons."
Snowden told Williams that he "takes the threat of terrorism seriously" and that he was on Fort Meade on Sept. 11:
"I've never told anybody this. No journalist. But I was on Fort Meade on September 11th. I was right outside the NSA. So I remember — I remember the tension of that day. I remember hearing on the radio the planes hitting. And I remember thinking my grandfather, who worked for the FBI at the time — was in the Pentagon when the plane hit it."
The only major gaffe Snowden seemed to make during his interview was saying that he thought "the second season [of The Wire] is not so great." But mostly, he misses living in the U.S.
"If I could go anywhere in the world, that place would be home."