Fugitive whistle-blower Edward Snowden has denied intimations from U.S. politicians that he colluded with Russian intelligence operatives to steal classified information from the National Security Agency.
In a rare interview said to have been conducted via encrypted email from his refuge in Moscow, Snowden told The New Yorker magazine that “this ‘Russian spy’ push is absurd.”
Snowden was accused by Rep. Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, of being a “thief, who we believe had some help.”
“I believe there’s a reason he ended up in the hands — the loving arms — of an FSB agent in Moscow,” Rogers said during a Sunday interview with NBC “I don’t think that’s a coincidence.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., was asked by CBS host David Gregory if she too thought Snowden had been assisted in his dramatic absconding with a trove of secret files from the NSA.
“He may well have,” said Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. But she added that U.S. authorities “don’t know at this stage.”
In the New Yorker interview, Snowden points out that he first flew to Hong Kong after deciding to leave the NSA and expose what he considered intrusive and excessive snooping by the intelligence agency into the personal communications of millions of Americans and citizens abroad.
When he arrived in Moscow in June, his U.S. passport had been canceled and he was stuck in a transit no-man’s land at Sheremetyevo International Airport for 40 days while Russian authorities mulled his request for asylum, Snowden told the magazine.
“Spies get treated better than that,” he said of his less-than-enthusiastic welcome last summer.
Snowden also pointed out that he would have ended up taking refuge in Cuba if the U.S. government hadn’t rescinded his passport, preventing him from traveling onward to Havana as had been his plan when he left Hong Kong.
“I was only transiting through Russia,” he told the magazine. “But the State Department decided they wanted me in Moscow and canceled my passport.”
Snowden was granted temporary asylum in Russia in August, and remains unable to travel internationally for fear of arrest and extradition to the United States, where he is wanted on felony charges of stealing government property and disclosing classified information.