Edward Snowden appeared on German television on Sunday, claiming that U.S. government officials want to kill him. The former contractor for the U.S. National Security Agency fears for his life after leaking classified documents last June. The leaked documents revealed the NSA’s practice of collecting emails and phone records of both foreign officials and civilians.
Germany’s public television channel, ARD, aired 40 minutes of what was a six-hour interview with Snowden. During the interview, filmed in Moscow, Edward Snowden claims that he believes that his life is significantly threatened, but that he is unworried because he knows that leaking the information about the NSA was the right thing to do. Snowden bases his knowledge of the threats against him on a report that appeared on Buzzfeed, a U.S. website which quoted anonymous NSA and Pentagon officials threatening to kill him.
Anatoly Kucherena, Snowden’s lawyer, plans to ask the U.S. government to investigate the death threats. Kucherena is also considering whether to ask the media to reveal the names of those who threatened his client’s life.
The U.S. charges that Snowden, while working in Hawaii as an IT contractor, stole as many as 1.7 million documents from the NSA. Snowden denies the U.S. government’s claims, but admitted on Sunday that any documents he did have were distributed to journalists around the world to serve as a form of insurance should someone want to take his life.
Since his departure from the U.S., Snowden has been disseminating information regarding governmental surveillance programs by granting interviews and releasing documents to journalists.
Snowden currently resides in Russia, which granted him at least one year of asylum last summer after he first landed in Hong Kong. While in Russia, he is accompanied by security guards and offered additional government protection. Snowden left the United States to avoid facing espionage charges related to his leak of government surveillance programs. He has been charged with giving classified intelligence data to an unauthorized person, theft of government property and unauthorized communication of national security information. Each of the charges could result in a prison sentence of 10 years. Edward Snowden has said that due to the claims that U.S. officials want to kill him and the fact that there is “no chance” that he will receive a fair trial in the U.S., he will not return to the country to face the charges against him.
During the interview, which German’s ARD called Edward Snowden’s first on television, he also revealed that he thinks the NSA has kept tabs on not only Chancellor Angela Merkel, but other German officials as well. Although Germany is one of the U.S.’s top allies, the country’s anger upon learning of the spying on Merkel’s phone has led it to call for a “no-spy” agreement with the U.S.
Snowden also revealed that the NSA collects not only intelligence related to national security, but also monitors industrial firms that directly compete with U.S. companies. Citing legal reasons, ARD’s website warns that the video in which Edward Snowden claims that U.S. officials want to kill him can only be viewed in Germany and thus released only a transcript of the televised interview.
By Jennifer Pfalz