Former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor turned whistleblower and international fugitive Edward Snowden on Thursday expressed criticism of Hillary Clinton, who has been accused of mishandling classified data on a private email server she used while serving as U.S. Secretary of State, saying lower-level government employees would ‘not only lose their jobs,” but “would very likely face prosecution” for doing the same thing.
Snowden, who told Al Jazeera's UpFront in an exclusive interview that it was not his “place to say” whether Clinton potentially endangered U.S. national security, did however call what Clinton did a “problem.”
“Anyone who has the clearances that the Secretary of State has or the director of any top level agency has knows how classified information should be handled,” Snowden told UpFront host Mehdi Hasan. “When the unclassified systems of the United States government — which has a full time information security staff — regularly get hacked, the idea that someone keeping a private server in the renovated bathroom of a server farm in Colorado, is more secure is completely ridiculous.”
Clinton, who is considered the front-runner to win the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, has faced criticism for using a private email server to conduct government business. The FBI has said it’s treating the case as a potential criminal investigation. While she has dismissed critics for playing what Clinton has called “partisan games,” Clinton has also expressed regret over the email controversy.
Meanwhile, Snowden, who continues to live in exile in Russia despite Secretary of State John Kerry calling on him to “man up” and return to the U.S., indicated that he might be open to a return provided that he would be given a “fair trial.”
“I have been consistent in saying that the only thing I want from the government, in order to come back and stand trial, is guarantees of a fair trail where I can put forth a public-interest defense,” Snowden said.
Snowden faces charges of “theft of government property,” “unauthorized communication of national defense information,” and willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person” under the Espionage Act.
In 2013, while working as an NSA contractor, he leaked thousands of classified documents revealing extensive details about the agency’s spy programs both in the U.S. and internationally, causing widespread political and diplomatic fallout for Washington.
Daniel Ellsberg, who in 1971 leaked what became known as the “Pentagon Papers” that exposed the secret history of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam, also spoke to Al Jazeera and said he doesn’t believe Snowden “can ever come back to America.”
Snowden said he expects to live in exile for the “foreseeable future,” but said the U.S. government has never “demonstrated any evidence of any harm that’s occurred as a result of these disclosures.”
“The laws inside the United States and outside the United States are all changing as a result of this information and we are actually living in a more safe and better world that has greater respect for human rights as a result of the fact that we the people are now a part of the decision making about this topic in government.” Snowden said.