“Anyone in the positions of access with the technical capabilities that I had could suck out secrets, pass them on the open market to Russia; they always have an open door as we do,” he told the Guardian.
Snowden’s supporters in WikiLeaks have said that neither Chinese nor Russian intelligence officials have debriefed the American and that agents from those countries have not had access to his computers. President Vladimir Putin also said Tuesday that staffers of the FSB, the Russian security service, “didn’t work and aren’t working” with Snowden. Former U.S. intelligence officials have questioned whether Russia would not take the opportunity to obtain NSA documents that could include material affecting its interests.
Once he was out in the open, Snowden was no longer in control of his fate. His original plan was to show up in Hong Kong and have a “free” and “simple” life there, according to one of his attorneys, Albert Ho. At a meeting in Hong Kong more than a week ago, his attorneys laid out the charges he could face, the likelihood of detention in Hong Kong and an extradition proceeding that could lead to his return to the United States, where he could face life in prison if convicted.
Snowden, who said he expected the United States to seek his arrest, selectively leaked documents after arriving in Hong Kong that would be of interest to China — an attempt by Snowden, Greenwald has said, to ingratiate himself with possible benefactors.
He showed the South China Morning Post records about U.S. hacking in China; the Guardian later reported that the communications of then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev were tapped by an NSA facility in England during a Group of 20 summit in London in 2009.
While in Hong Kong, Snowden made contact with activists from WikiLeaks. The group has said little about its role, except that it helped Snowden obtain temporary travel papers and that one of its top advisers, Sarah Harrison, accompanied him to Moscow.
“In the end, it was Mr. Snowden who took the decision on his own fate, based on the information that he had,” said Kristinn Hrafnsson, a spokesman for WikiLeaks. “I cannot go into details about the back-and-forth between Mr. Snowden and his legal team.”
Snowden had earlier told the Guardian that “my predisposition is to seek asylum in a country with shared values. The nation that most encompasses this is Iceland. They stood up for people over Internet freedom.”
Jia Lynn Yang in Hong Kong, Anthony Faiola in London and Timothy Lee in Washington contributed to this report.