NSA leaker Edward Snowden says he repeatedly raised concerns with his superiors and with oversight groups that the scope of the NSA's domestic surveillance programs was too broad, but the government claims that isn't the case.
In an interview with NBC's Brian Williams on Wednesday – the first time Snowden has appeared on US television since fleeing the country in May 2013 – the former intelligence contractor said that his attempts to question the legality of the NSA's programs fell on deaf ears.
"I actually did go through channels, and that is documented," Snowden said. "The NSA has records, they have copies of emails, right now, to their Office of General Counsel, to their oversight and compliance folks, from me, raising concerns about the NSA's interpretations of its legal authorities."
But the US government claims the only email communication it can find between Snowden and the NSA's Office of General Counsel is on a trivial legal matter, and that it "did not raise allegations or concerns about wrongdoing or abuse."
In the exchange, Snowden asks whether Presidential Executive Orders can override federal laws, as one of his training materials seemed to state. The response from the Office of General Counsel is that while Executive Orders have the "force and effect of law," they cannot override statutes. No other issues were discussed, the government's post states, and "There was not additional follow-up noted."
"There are numerous avenues that Mr. Snowden could have used to raise other concerns or whistleblower allegations," the post concludes. "We have searched for additional indications of outreach from him in those areas and to date have not discovered any engagements related to his claims."
In his NBC interview, however, Snowden said he expected the intelligence community to deny his allegations and to "frame it in certain ways" to discredit him.
In another segment of the interview, Snowden mentioned that Obama administration officials have repeatedly tried to characterize him as a "low-level analyst," when in fact he was a trained spy who operated computer systems for the US government while working undercover overseas.
In response to Snowden's televised comments, US Secretary of State John Kerry told NBC's Today program that the administration would be happy to fly Snowden back to the United States to make his case before the American people.
"If he cares so much about America and he believes in America, he should trust in the American system of justice," Kerry said. ®