Washington: Fugitive American intelligence leaker Edward Snowden has damaged security of the country by his actions, former US President George W Bush said on Monday.
"I think he damaged the security of the country," Bush said on Snowden, the 30-year-old former technical contractor and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee who worked for Booz Allen Hamilton, a contractor for the US National Security Agency (NSA).
Bush said he believes the Obama administration "will deal" with the fallout from the controversy unleashed by Snowden, who is now thought to be holed up in the transit area of a Moscow airport after fleeing there from Hong Kong.
Snowden`s disclosures about the spy programmes carried out by the NSA and other intelligence entities have shaken the US intelligence community and put the Obama administration on the defensive over accusations of government overreach into citizens` privacy and angered Western governments.
But Bush, who was president from 2001 to 2009, refrained from criticising Obama, his successor.
"I don`t think it does any good," he said. "It`s a hard job. He`s got plenty on his agenda. It`s difficult. A former president doesn`t need to make it any harder. Other presidents have taken different decisions; that`s mine," Bush said.
The White House has defended the surveillance programmes as necessary tools to foil terrorist threats. Obama has said he welcomes a debate over how to strike a balance between security and privacy.
"I think there needs to be a balance, and as the president explained, there is a proper balance," Bush said.
Asked about an NSA programme that tracks people`s Internet activity under his presidency, Bush said, "I put that programme in place to protect the country. One of the certainties was that civil liberties were guaranteed."
Snowden has said he leaked information to journalists about the American surveillance programmes in the hope of ending what he called an excessively intrusive system.
Bush, 66, also initially said he was not bothered about his ratings in opinion polls, even if some of them now put him at a similar level to Obama.
"The only time I really cared was on Election Day," he said.
In any case, the former president said he doesn`t expect a fair assessment of his legacy in his lifetime.
"I won`t be around, because it will take a while for the objective historians to show up," he said.
"So I`m pretty comfortable with it, I did what I did; I know the spirit in which I did it," Bush added.