Former US president George W Bush has said the controversial PRISM surveillance was designed to protect America, and claimed whistleblower-turned-fugitive Edward Snowden has damaged the nation by revealing its existence.
During an interview with CNN, Dubya said that he had ordered the creation of PRISM to beef up national security, but made sure to tell spooks they must respect civil liberties.
Bush said: "I put that program in place to protect the country. One of the certainties was that civil liberties were guaranteed."
The former Texan oil cowboy said he was confident current US President Barack Obama is protecting these freedoms by respecting the balance Bush sought when PRISM was introduced.
He added: "Ultimately, history will judge the decisions I made. I won't be around because it's going to take awhile for the objective historians to show up. And so I'm pretty comfortable with it. I did what I did. I know the spirit in which I did it."
Dubya also attacked Edward Snowden, the man who leaked a huge cache of documents setting out the reality of the US government's surveillance scheme, but stopped short of calling him a traitor.
"I know he damaged the country - the Obama administration will deal with it. I think he damaged the security of the country."
Meanwhile, in a grotty airport lounge in Russia, Edward Snowden's fate is looking increasingly uncertain. We previously reported that he had applied for asylum in 15 countries, but an official statement from Snowden released by WikiLeaks said he has now applied to a total of 21 different countries.
As well as Iceland and Ecuador, which appear to have cooled on the idea of giving Snowden sanctuary, he has applied to:
- Republic of Austria
- Plurinational State of Bolivia
- Federative Republic of Brazil
- People’s Republic of China
- Republic of Cuba
- Republic of Finland
- The French Republic
- Federal Republic of Germany
- Republic of India
- The Italian Republic
- Republic of Ireland
- The Kingdom of the Netherlands
- Republic of Nicaragua
- The Kingdom of Norway
- Republic of Poland
- The Russian Federation
- The Kingdom of Spain
- Switzerland (The Swiss Confederation)
- Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (that's Venezuela to you and me)
In a statement, Wikileaks said: "WikiLeaks’ legal advisor in the Edward Snowden matter, Sarah Harrison, submitted by hand a number of requests for asylum and asylum assistance on behalf of Edward J Snowden, the NSA whistleblower.
"The requests were delivered to an official at the Russian consulate at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow late in the evening. The documents outline the risks of persecution Mr Snowden faces in the United States and have started to be delivered by the Russian consulate to the relevant embassies in Moscow."
Seven of the European countries Snowden applied to have knocked him back while he is understood to have withdrawn his application to Russia.
Poland, Norway, Austria, Germany, Finland, Spain and Switzerland all require asylum requests to be made from people on their soil. This morning Spain said mañana to hosting the PRISM whistleblower, as he has not made an application while on Spanish soil.
Nicolás Maduro, the president of Venezuela, said his officials have not yet received an asylum application, but commented that Snowden had "done something very important for humanity and deserved the world's protection".
He continued: "The world's conscience should react, the world youth should react, the decent people who want a peaceful world should react, everyone should react and find solidarity with this young man who has denounced and altered the world that they [the US] pretend to control." ®