‘I can’t say I’m safe’: NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden admits he is uncertain of what could happen to him in Russia and says the US is still his ‘top priority’
- Edward Snowden, 35, opened up about life in exile in Moscow during event at a business college in Innsbruck, Austria
- Snowden told the audience via video conference ‘Russia is not my home’
- Snowden has been living in Moscow since 2013, after he leaked classified documents about NSA’s domestic surveillance program
- He said on Thursday he did not come forward to be safe, and that if that were his goal, he would have continued working for the NSA ‘spying on everyone’
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden says he does not feel safe living in Russia, but does not regret becoming a whistleblower.
The 35-year-old Snowden opened up about his life in exile on Thursday while participating via video conference at an event organized by the Management Center Innsbruck in Austria.
Snowden has lived in exile in Moscow since 2013, after leaking thousands of classified documents detailing the NSA’s domestic surveillance and eavesdropping program targeting foreign nationals and Americans alike.
Leaker speaks: Edward Snowden speaks via video link to participants of the ‘MCI alumni and friends’ conference at the Congress Innsbruck on October 18 in Innsbruck, Austria
The former NSA contractor said he does not feel safe living in exile in Moscow and his future there is uncertain
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‘Russia is not my home; Russia is my place of exile,’ Snowden told the audience at the private business college, as Huffington Post first reported. ‘The United States will always be my first priority.’
He continued: ‘as for the future in Russia and what will happen there, I can’t say I’m safe. I don’t know.’
But Snowden added that he never had an expectation of safety and it did not factor into his decision-making.
‘I didn’t come forward to be safe,’ Snowden said. ‘If I wanted safety, I’d be sitting in Hawaii right now, making a lot of money, spying on everyone.’
Snowden, who currently heads the board of directors of the non-profit Freedom of the Press Foundation, said that if he is ‘pushed off a building or under a bus tomorrow,’ it won’t stop other activists from raising concerns about government surveillance.
On June 5, 2013, The Guardian in Britain published the first story based on Snowden’s leaks, revealing that a secret court order was allowing the US government to get Verizon to share the phone records of millions of Americans.
It was reported last year that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin was considering sending Snowden back to the US as a peace offering to President Donald Trump (pictured together in Helsinki in July)
Later stories, including those in The Washington Post, disclosed other snooping and how US and British spy agencies had accessed information from cables carrying the world’s telephone and internet traffic.
Snowden’s defenders maintain that the US government has for years exaggerated the damage his disclosures caused.
If he ever returns stateside, Snowden faces espionage charges that could land him in prison for up to 30 years.
Moscow has resisted US pressure to extradite Snowden, and last year his residence permit in the country was extended for another couple of years.
Around the same time, it was reported that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin was considering sending Snowden back to the US as a peace offering to President Donald Trump.
At Thursday’s speaking engagement, Snowden reiterated that he has no ties to the Kremlin.
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