Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden denied accusations that he was working for a foreign government when he stole countless classified documents detailing U.S. surveillance programs and efforts to gather information on world leaders.
In an interview with the New Yorker, published Tuesday evening on the magazine’s Web site, Snowden said claims that he may have been working for the Russians as a spy were “absurd.”
On NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, called Snowden a “thief.” Rogers said he believed somebody must have helped Snowden steal the documents.
Rogers rejected the notion that it was a coincidence that Snowden eventually found refuge in Russia. But the lawmaker offered no proof that Snowden was working in concert with Russian intelligence.
Snowden told the magazine that he “clearly and unambiguously acted alone, with no assistance from anyone, much less a government.” He said the allegations wouldn’t “stick,” adding that they were false and that “the American people are smarter than politicians think they are.”
The CIA’s Counterintelligence Center has been conducting an exhaustive investigation to determine whether Snowden had help or whether someone assisted him unwittingly. So far, the CIA and the FBI have not turned up evidence that another country recruited Snowden to take the documents.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, also did not rule out that Snowden received assistance. “He may well have,” she said on “Meet the Press.”
Speaking from Moscow, Snowden said, “It’s not the smears that mystify me,” and wondered why media outlets would report the congressman’s claims, because they amounted to baseless speculation.
Snowden said he never intended to make Russia his temporary home. He said he tried to go to Cuba when the State Department canceled his passport. He said the United States has failed to demonstrate that the disclosures have harmed U.S. national security.
On Thursday, Snowden is expected to answer more questions in an online chat and to respond to President Obama’s recent speech on reforms at the NSA. The chat will be hosted by a group known as the Courage Foundation, which describes itself as a trust established to provide legal support to journalistic sources.
Snowden has accused Feinstein and Rogers of not providing adequate oversight of the NSA.