MOSCOW (Sputnik) – The prominent whistleblower played an inportant role in generating a public debate after leaking classified intelligence on US surveillance, according to Holder.
"We can certainly argue about the way in which Snowden did what he did, but I think that he actually performed a public service by raising the debate that we engaged in and by the changes that we made," Holder told the CNN broadcaster’s "The Axe Files" podcast.
Holder, who oversaw the Justice Department when Snowden leaked 1.7 million classified US National Security Agency (NSA) documents shedding light on global surveillance practices in 2013, clarified that the whistleblower’s actions remained "inappropriate and illegal."
"He harmed American interests," Holder stressed, adding that "we were blind in certain really critical areas" while Washington was performing "all kinds of re-dos" to repair diplomatic relations.
It was revealed last week that the Pentagon’s former assistant inspector general, John Crane, broke silence and formally filed charges with the Office of Special Counsel, claiming that officials high in the inspector general’s office targeted and retaliated against whistleblowers, tampered with audits and destroyed records.
Snowden is wanted in the United States on charges of espionage and theft of government property, which could see him sent to jail for 30 years.
After fleeing initially to Hong Kong, the former NSA contractor became stranded at a Moscow airport for a month before Russia granted him one-year asylum. In August 2014, the activist received a three-year residence permit in Russia.