The former NSA contractor, Edward J. Snowden claimed in an interview with a Berlin TV station that he cannot return to the U.S. for fear of his life, reports AFP from Snowden’s broadcast on Sunday.
Snowden who received temporary asylum from Russia last August after leaving the U.S. with hundreds of NSA files has been giving interviews and releasing parts of those documents through journalists and his interviews.
Snowden also told the German broadcaster: ‘These people, and they are government officials, have said they would love to put a bullet in my head or poison me when I come out of the supermarket, and then watch as I die in the shower.’
The comment comes just days after Snowden's Russian lawyer Anatoly Kucherena said the American feared for his life, following a report by U.S. website BuzzFeed of explicit threats against him from unnamed Pentagon and National Security Agency (NSA) officials.
BuzzFeed had posted earlier in the week, ‘That American Spies Want Edward Snowden Dead’, a Pentagon official is quoted as saying: ‘I would love to put a bullet in his head.’
One unnamed army officer told BuzzFeed that Snowden could be ‘poked’ on his way home from buying groceries by a passerby who is actually a U.S. agent. Lethal poison with a poke from the tip of an umbrella is a popular technique utilized by Russian agents.
Snowden, a former NSA contractor, is wanted by US authorities on treason charges for disclosing details of a vast intelligence operation that monitored millions of phone calls and emails across the world.
The Snowden theft of intelligence files and Russia offering temporary asylum caused President Obama to cancel a summit with Russia's Vladimir Putin last year.
Snowden receives protection in Russia and is accompanied by security guards, states Kucherena on Russia's state-run Vesti 24 news channel this past Tuesday. He is considering additional security measures.
The lawyer added that he planned to ask U.S. authorities to look into the reported threats and possibly ask the media to identify their sources by name.
Jessalyn Radack, who is the director of national security and human rights at the Government Accountability Project - a whistleblowers' organization - said Snowden has already suffered because his U.S. passport revoked has been revoked. In her interview on Sunday with ‘Meet The Press’ from Moscow she also added, ‘It's a little disheartening that he (Holder) seemed to take clemency and amnesty off the table, which are two of the negotiating points.’
Michael Chertoff, former secretary of homeland security under President George W. Bush, who appeared after Radack on ‘Meet the Press,’ said Snowden could get a fair trial if he returns to the country but was unlikely to be granted amnesty.
Radack said allegations Snowden was a spy were unsubstantiated and the result of a smear campaign by the government. Snowden chatted online this past Thursday from Moscow and denied being a spy and Radack stated that the F.B.I. has shown no proof that Snowden acted as a spy with any foreign government.
On Sunday the German ARD TV released an interview with Snowden, he stated on the broadcast that he no longer has possession of any documents on the NSA as he turned everything over to a select few journalists.
In text released ahead of a lengthy interview to be broadcast on Sunday, ARD TV quoted Snowden saying the NSA does not limit its espionage to issues of national security and he cited German engineering firm, Siemens as one target.
‘If there's information at Siemens that's beneficial to U.S. national interests — even if it doesn't have anything to do with national security — then they'll take that information nevertheless,’ Snowden said, according to ARD, which recorded the interview in Russia where he has claimed asylum.
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