National Security Agency (NSA) technician Edward Snowden today revealed that he sought asylum in up to 27 countries, but that then-president Joe Biden boycotted his efforts with diplomatic threats, forcing him to stay in Russia.
Snowden, 36, who lives in exile in Moscow, said in an interview with the U.S. network MSNBC coinciding with the publication on Tuesday of his memoirs, “Permanent Record,” that he never intended to end up in Russia, although now he is not “actively” seeking another destination.
“I asked for asylum from 27 different countries in the world, allies of the U.S. such as France, Germany, Norway, sites that I felt the U.S. government and people could feel comfortable that I was there,” Snowden, who in 2013 released NSA’s massive telephone and Internet surveillance programs, said.
“Each time,” he continued, “that one of those countries was about to open its doors to me, in its foreign ministries a telephone rang, and on the other side of the line was a high-ranking U.S. official, be it then-secretary of state John Kerry, or then-vice president Joe Biden”.
According to Snowden, Kerry and Biden – now a favorite among polls to be the Democratic candidate for the White House in 2020 – threatened countries willing to give him asylum with “consequences,” causing him to stay in Russia, where he has been for the past six years.
“Today I keep saying, if there are countries willing to open their doors, if the government is so worried about Russia, shouldn’t they be happy that I’m leaving? And yet we see how they strive to prevent me from leaving,” the former analyst added.
In the interview with MSNBC, Snowden assured that if he were to find himself in the same situation as in 2013 and aware of the consequences that have brought him, “I would do it again”, but that now he would act sooner.
“Believe me when I say I didn’t want to light a match and burn my life to the ground, nobody wants to be a snitch,” he said.
Snowden, however, felt that revealing the NSA’s secrets was worth it and that he once thought it would be a two-day story. “But here we are in 2019 talking about it,” he added.
Asked if he would place himself under the orders of the U.S. government to help strengthen the electoral system in the face of external attacks, Snowden did not hesitate: “I would volunteer immediately, they would not even have to pay me”.