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NSA Contractor Edward Snowden Is Source of Leak on U.S. Surveillance Programs

June 10, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT

JUDY WOODRUFF: The uproar over sweeping government surveillance has now expanded to the source of the revelations. He’s defending his actions, saying the public is owed an explanation about what’s been going on.

EDWARD SNOWDEN, Leaked Details of U.S. Surveillance: Even if you’re doing nothing wrong, you’re being watched and recorded.

JUDY WOODRUFF: That’s Edward Snowden, the man who leaked that the U.S. National Security Agency is collecting data on millions of phone calls and Internet communications.

The Guardian newspaper in London and The Washington Post broke the stories last week. On Sunday, Snowden permitted them to make his identity public. He also made a lengthy video statement for The Guardian, produced by documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras and journalist Glenn Greenwald.

EDWARD SNOWDEN: I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge, to even the president if I had a personal e-mail.

It’s getting to the point you don’t have to have done anything wrong. You simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody, even by a wrong call, and then they can use the system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you have ever made.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Snowden is 29. He briefly worked as a contractor for the NSA, employed by the private defense consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. He says he felt compelled to speak out about what he calls wrongdoing.

EDWARD SNOWDEN: The more you talk about it, the more you are ignored, the more you’re told it’s not a problem, until eventually you realize that these things need to be determined by the public, not by somebody who was simply hired by the government.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Snowden was interviewed by The Guardian in Hong Kong, where he said he’s seeking asylum. The former contractor indicated that he expects U.S. authorities to prosecute him.

EDWARD SNOWDEN: You can’t come forward against the world’s most powerful intelligence agencies and be completely free from risk, because they’re such powerful adversaries that no one can meaningful oppose them. If they want to get you, they will get you in time.

JUDY WOODRUFF: At the White House today, spokesman Jay Carney wouldn’t discuss Snowden or the case.

Other top officials did speak out over the weekend, before learning of Snowden’s identity.

RET. LT. GEN. JAMES CLAPPER, National Intelligence Director: For me, it is literally — not figuratively — literally gun-wrenching.

JUDY WOODRUFF: On Saturday, the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, told NBC News that the leaks put the nation in danger.

JAMES CLAPPER: This is a key tool for preserving, protecting the nation’s safety and security.

JUDY WOODRUFF: On the Sunday talk shows, the issue made strange bedfellows of lawmakers across the political spectrum. Republican Congressman Mike Rogers of Michigan chairs the House Intelligence Committee.

REP. MIKE ROGERS, R-Mich.: These programs that are authorized by the court, by the way, only focus on non-United States persons overseas. That gets lost in this debate — is — are pieces of the puzzle. And you have to have all the pieces of the puzzle to try to put it together. That’s what we found went wrong in 9/11.

JUDY WOODRUFF: California Democrat Dianne Feinstein chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, D-Calif.: Here’s the rub. The instances where this has produced good — has disrupted plots, prevented terrorist attacks is all classified. That’s what’s so hard about this.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Another Democratic senator, Mark Udall of Colorado, argued the programs have gone too far.

SEN. MARK UDALL, D-Colo.: My concern is, this is vast. We haven’t — it hasn’t been proven that it works. Uniquely valuable intelligence hasn’t been proven to have disrupted plots. Yet it’s the scale of this that really concerns me and the fact that the American public doesn’t know about it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And Republican Rand Paul of Kentucky insisted the programs are a violation of Americans’ fundamental rights.

SEN. RAND PAUL, R-Ky.: Get a warrant. Go after a terrorist or a murderer or a rapist. But don’t troll through a billion phone records every day. That is unconstitutional. It invades our privacy. And I’m going to be seeing if I can challenge this at the Supreme Court level.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Snowden is believed to be still in Hong Kong. It’s unclear how the semi-autonomous Chinese territory will handle his case. Hong Kong has offered asylum to others in the past, but also holds an extradition treaty with the United States.