Zee Media Bureau/Supriya Jha
Washington: Daring fugitive National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden to return home, US Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday told him to `man up` and face the justice system of the country.
Kerry`s remarks came in response to Edward Snowden`s interview to the US news channel NBC, wherein the former NSA leaker has expressed his desire to return to the US.
"If I could go anywhere in the world, that place would be home," said Snowden, who exposed a trove of secret documents detailing US surveillance mechanisms a year ago, sparking a fierce debate over the intelligence practices of the US.
In a series of interviews on Wednesday morning, Kerry lashed out at Edward, calling him a `coward`, `confused`, and `traitor`, who betrayed his country.
Kerry`s blitzkrieg came in response to Snowden`s interview to NBC, which was aired on Wednesday night, in which the former US intelligence contractor claimed that he was trained as a spy and not some low-level hacker as suggested by US officials.
Snowden might be referring to President Barack Obama`s statement given in June last year when he said, "No, I`m not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker."
"I was trained as a spy in sort of the traditional sense of the word -- in that I lived and worked undercover, overseas, pretending to work in a job that I`m not -- and even being assigned a name that was not mine," said Snowden in the interview.
"I don`t work with people. I don`t recruit agents. What I do is I put systems to work for the United States. And I`ve done that at all levels ? from the bottom on the ground all the way to the top," Snowden told NBC News anchor Brian Williams.
In response Kerry appeared at several morning news shows and portrayed Snowden as a fugitive who harmed his nation and then fled to an authoritarian country like Russia.
Speaking to MSNBC`s Chuck Todd, Kerry said, “Edward Snowden is a coward.. He is a traitor. And he has betrayed his country. And if he wants to come home tomorrow to face the music, he can do so.”
“What he’s done is expose for terrorists a lot of mechanisms which now affect operational security of those terrorists and make it harder for the United States to break up plots, harder to protect our nation”.
In another chat show “CBS This Morning”, Kerry said that Snowden “should man up, come back to the United States” .
“If he has a complaint about what’s wrong with American surveillance, come back here and stand in our system of justice and make his case. But instead, he’s just sitting there taking pot shots at his country, violating his oath that he took when he took on the job he took, and betraying, I think, the fundamental agreement that he entered into when he became an employee,” said Kerry.
Retorting Snowden`s claim that he was forced to escape to Russia as the US State Department revoked his passport, Kerry said on the “Today” show, “Well, for a supposedly smart guy, that’s a pretty dumb answer, frankly”.
“If Mr. Snowden wants to come back to the United States today, we’ll have him on a flight today,” Kerry added. “We’d be delighted for him to come back. And that’s what a patriot would do.”
Defending his asylum in Russia, Snowden told the NBC host that he had "no relationship with the Russian government at all".
"I`m not supported by the Russian government. I`m not taking money from the Russian government. I`m not a spy."
Snowden also said that he had destroyed all the secret documents before reaching the transit zone of Moscow airport and so there was no question of helping Russia.
"I took nothing to Russia, so I could give them nothing," he told NBC`s Brian Williams.
Snowden, who is wanted by the United States for exposing sensational details of its spying programmes, shunned his job as NSA contractor in US and is now granted asylum by Russia, where he has been staying since last June.
The US has been hit hard by bombshell revelations by Snowden, which not only fuelled the indignation within the US over the privacy concerns of American citizens, but also strained the nation`s relations with its allies like France, Germany, Spain, Mexico and Brazil.