“I will never exchange information for asylum and I don’t think the government of Brazil would do that either. A grant of asylum should always be a purely humanitarian decision and the letter was very clear on that point. I will never coopperate with anyone outside of a lawful and appropriate manner.
“The aim of the letter was to explain why these questions are important, to help Brazilian senators who are looking for answers and encourage the Brazilian people to continue efforts to defend their right to privacy.
“If the government of Brazil wants to stand up for human rights, it would be my honor to be part of that. Brazil is a beautiful country and I’m grateful to have so many new friends and supporters there. I’m encouraged and impressed by the increasingly vibrant political liberties and freedoms Brazilians enjoy. In fact, of the two journalists with whom I worked most closely, one of them – Glenn Greenwald – is currently living and reporting freely and safely in Brazil.”
On Brazil’s reaction to the revelations:
“Unlike the kind of pressure made by the US and UK – which held Greenwald’s partner David Miranda under terrorism laws for carrying journalistic material. Like all countries, Brazil has its problems and imperfections, but I think it is one of the most interesting and vibrant democracies in the world.
“It was difficult to leave my family and my country behind, but my conscience required it. The problem is that right now US law doesn’t distinguish between a whistleblower revealing illegal programs to the public and a spy secretly selling documents to terrorists.
“One of the biggest political problems in the US is that the most serious offense you can commit is not to damage to government, but to embarrass it. It’s clear that I could not possibly get a fair trial in my country.”
On the prospects for reform:
Snowden was also asked whether the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies, which issued its report on NSA practices on 18 December 2013, would solve the issues he identified.
“No, not at all, but the report is a start and taking that first step is important. Remember that the advisory group was composed of a hand picked group. Their job wasn’t to protect privacy or to deter abuses, it was to “restore public confidence” in these spying activities. Many of the recommendations they made are cosmetic changes: things that look good but change little.
“There’s no question that these developments would have been impossible without the disclosure of these documents and the courageous journalism of the last six months.”
On allegations of harm resulting from the past six months’ reporting:
“If that’s true, they should prove it. It has been six months since the reporting started, and the NSA has never shown even a single example of harm from these revelations.”
On the overall reaction:
“It’s encouraging. While it’s hard to know that I can’t be with my family, that my government won’t let me come home, it helps to know that things are starting to change for the better. I have no regrets.”
“I am grateful to be free and able to foster such an important global debate and this is what my grant of a year’s asylum in Russia has secured. I have a lot of time to read and to follow the news. And I’ve learned enough of the language to say Happy Christmas to everyone!”