HONG KONG (AP) – The former CIA employee who leaked top-secret information about U.S. surveillance programs said in a new interview in Hong Kong on Wednesday that he is not attempting to hide from justice here but hopes to use the city as a base to reveal wrongdoing.
Edward Snowden dropped out of sight after checking out of a Hong Kong hotel on Monday. The South China Morning Post newspaper said it was able to locate and interview him on Wednesday. It provided brief excerpts from the interview on its website.
It said Snowden, who has been both praised and condemned for releasing documents about U.S. telephone and Internet surveillance programs, said he was “neither a traitor nor hero. I’m an American.”
Asked about his choice of Hong Kong to leak the information, Snowden said, “People who think I made a mistake in picking Hong Kong as a location misunderstand my intentions. I am not here to hide from justice; I am here to reveal criminality.”
The newspaper quoted him as saying that he had several opportunities to flee from Hong Kong, but that he “would rather stay and fight the United States government in the courts, because I have faith in Hong Kong’s rule of law.”
“My intention is to ask the courts and people of Hong Kong to decide my fate,” he said.
Snowden said he plans to stay in the city until he is “asked to leave,” the newspaper said.
Snowden, 29, arrived in Hong Kong from his home in Hawaii on May 20, just after taking leave from his National Security Agency contracting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, which has since fired him.
He said he had not dared contact his family or girlfriend since disclosing that he was the source of the top-secret documents.
“I have not spoken to any of my family,” he told the newspaper. “I am worried about the pressure they are feeling from the FBI.”
Two FBI agents visited Snowden’s father’s home in Pennsylvania on Monday.
Questions remain about why Snowden chose to go public in Hong Kong, a Chinese autonomous region that maintains a Western-style legal system and freedom of speech.
Hong Kong has an extradition agreement with the United States, but there are exceptions in cases of political persecution or where there are concerns over cruel or humiliating treatment.
U.S. authorities have yet to bring charges against Snowden or file an extradition request with Hong Kong.
Supporters of Snowden have organized a march on Saturday that will pass in front of the U.S. Consulate.
“We call on Hong Kong to respect international legal standards and procedures relating to the protection of Snowden; we condemn the U.S. government for violating our rights and privacy; and we call on the U.S. not to prosecute Snowden,” the organizers said in a statement.