17:35 GMT +322 October 2019
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    NSA former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden

    Edward Snowden on Donald Trump: ‘He Has Never Known a Love That He Hasn’t Had to Pay For’

    © AFP 2019 / Frederick Florin
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    Snowden has spoken at length to American TV network MSNBC ahead of the release of his memoir, Permanent Record, on his work for the United States’ national security services and explosive revelations on the government’s spying programme.

    Edward Snowden has drawn an unflattering psychological sketch of Donald Trump, saying the US president is seeking verification from other people.

    “I think he's actually quite simple to understand,” Snowden said in a lengthy live interview from Moscow with MSNBC's Brian Williams. “Donald Trump strikes me like nothing so much as a man who has never really known a love that he hasn't had to pay for.”

    “And so everything that he does is informed by a kind of transactionalism, I think,” he added, "and what he's actually looking for is simply for people to like him. Unfortunately, that produces a lot of negative effects.”

    Snowden refused to say whether Trump was a threat to national security, as Williams inquired. The National Security Agency whistleblower said the idea of national security has been warped to a point where it no longer protects the people but protects the “system” itself.

    “I think we have seen tremendous harm done to the civil liberties in the United States, increasingly since 11 September,” Snowden said.

    In 2013, the then-NSA contractor leaked classified information on the government’s mass surveillance programme to journalists and has since then sought refuge in Russia, fearing prosecution on espionage charges under the Espionage Act, the same law under which charges were brought against Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange.

    He believes that the legislation in its current form is unfair and is “explicitly designed to prohibit a meaningful defence in court”, as it doesn’t distinguish between disclosing a national secret to a journalist, which was the case with him, and to a foreign government.

    Snowden said: “There has not been any movement, unfortunately, on that conversation since the Obama administration, when I told the government that all they need to do is give me the right of what we call a ‘public interest defence'.”

    “This is a fair trial, an open trial, where the jury hears what is happening, they decide was this justified or not,” he explained. “Then-Attorney General Eric Holder responded and said, ‘We can’t promise that. We will promise not to torture you.’ Unfortunately, I’d say, that’s not quite enough.”

    “I came forward not to burn the NSA down,” he clarified. “I came forward to reform it, to help it return to the ideals that we’re all supposed to share.”

    Snowden is hoping he could return to the United States one day, and is willing to help the government bolster national security, but a comeback will not be possible unless the criminal charges are dropped.

    Snowden last week reiterated his request for political asylum in France, which he first made in 2013 after fleeing the United States. France’ justice minister said she supported the idea, but Emmanuel Macron’s government has distanced itself from her comments.

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