Edward Snowden, the whistleblowing former CIA employee, has vowed to fight any attempt to extradite him from Hong Kong and said he would use the city as a base to reveal more "criminality".
In an interview from his safe house, the 29-year-old intelligence contractor said he had turned down opportunities to flee because he would rather "stay and fight" the US government in the courts.
Describing himself as "neither traitor nor hero" but "an American", Mr Snowden told the 'South China Morning Post' he was not hiding from justice and that Hong Kong's legal system would decide his fate.
"People who think I made a mistake in picking HK as a location misunderstand. I am not here to hide from justice; I am here to reveal criminality," he said.
Mr Snowden's comments were his first since he went into hiding on Monday after being identified as the source of revelations over how America's National Security Agency (NSA) kept tabs on private citizens' internet use and phone records.
He had arrived in Hong Kong from his home in Hawaii on May 20 after taking leave from his job with Booz Allen Hamilton, a contractor for the NSA. He has since been sacked.
Mr Snowden's disclosures have caused fury in Washington, and an attempt to hold him to account for the leaks seems likely.
Mr Snowden said yesterday he would resist any attempt to take him back to the US.
"I have had many opportunities to flee HK, but I would rather stay and fight the United States government in the courts," he said.
Since revealing information on the extent of the NSA's spying operations, including dragnet surveillance of all US phone calls and a system for snooping on the internet pages of foreign terror suspects, Mr Snowden has faced the full wrath of the US establishment.
The Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, the Democrat chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a former US ambassador to the United Nations have all called him a "traitor", and demanded he be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
His girlfriend Lindsay Mills (28) said she was alone and "lost at sea without a compass" as she struggled to fathom her boyfriend's transformation into one of America's most wanted men.
Jasper Tsang, the president of Hong Kong's legislature, said Beijing would not be able to intervene against Mr Snowden's extradition back to the US. (© Daily Telegraph, London)