Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden says that it is "not possible" for him to come back home to face charges, unless changes are made to the Whistleblower Protection Act.
During a live question and answer session hosted by a website collecting money for his legal defense, Snowden said that as a national security contractor, he would not be protected by the law.
Indeed, a report on the Whistleblower Protection Act by the Congressional Research Service opens by detailing the federal employees covered by the law.
"The hundred-year old law under which I've been charged, which was never intended to be used against people working in the public interest, and forbids a public interest defense. This is especially frustrating, because it means there's no chance to have a fair trial, and no way I can come home and make my case to a jury.
"Maybe when Congress comes together to end the programs the PCLOB just announced was illegal, they'll reform the Whistleblower Protection Act, and we'll see a mechanism for all Americans, no matter who they work for, to get a fair trial."
As NPR's Carrie Johnson reported early this morning, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board found that the bulk collection of billions of American phone records "violates the letter and spirit of the law."
Snowden's full chat log is here. We'll leave you with a few highlights of the Q&A:
— On whether he was afraid for his life, Snowden said:
"It's concerning, to me, but primarily for reasons you might not expect.
"That current, serving officials of our government are so comfortable in their authorities that they're willing to tell reporters on the record that they think the due process protections of the 5th Amendment of our Constitution are outdated concepts. These are the same officials telling us to trust that they'll honor the 4th and 1st Amendments. This should bother all of us.
"The fact that it's also a direct threat to my life is something I am aware of, but I'm not going to be intimidated. Doing the right thing means having no regrets."
— On what the appropriate scope of U.S. spying should be, Snowden said:
"[Mass surveillance is] not good for our country, it's not good for the world, and I wasn't going to stand by and watch it happen, no matter how much it cost me. The NSA and the rest of the U.S. Intelligence Community is exceptionally well positioned to meet our intelligence requirements through targeted surveillance — the same way we've always done it — without resorting to the mass surveillance of entire populations.
"When we're sophisticated enough to be able to break into any device in the world we want to (up to and including Angela Merkel's phone, if reports are to be believed), there's no excuse to be wasting our time collecting the call records of grandmothers in Missouri."
— Snowden denies stealing passwords of his colleagues:
"With all due respect to Mark Hosenball, the Reuters report that put this out there was simply wrong. I never stole any passwords, nor did I trick an army of co-workers."