Snowden defends spy programme leaks
Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency (NSA) leaker, has defended his disclosure of top-secret US spying programmes in an online chat with The Guardian and attacked US officials for calling him a traitor.
"The US government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me," he said.
He added the government "immediately and predictably destroyed any possibility of a fair trial at home", by labelling him a traitor, and indicated he would not return to the US voluntarily.
Congressional leaders have called Mr Snowden a traitor for revealing once-secret surveillance programmes two weeks ago in The Guardian and The Washington Post.
The NSA programmes collect records of millions of Americans' telephone calls and internet usage as a counter-terror tool. The disclosures revealed the scope of the collections, which surprised many Americans and have sparked debate about how much privacy the government can take away in the name of national security.
"It would be foolish to volunteer yourself to" possible arrest and criminal charges "if you can do more good outside of prison than in it," he said.
Mr Snowden dismissed being called a traitor by former vice president Dick Cheney, who made the allegations in an interview this week on Fox News Sunday. Mr Cheney was echoing the comments of both Democrats and Republican leadership in Congress, including Senate intelligence committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein.
"Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honour you can give an American, and the more panicked talk we hear from people like him, Feinstein ... the better off we all are," Mr Snowden said.
The Guardian announced that its website was hosting an online chat with Mr Snowden, in hiding in Hong Kong, with reporter Glenn Greenwald receiving and posting his questions. The Associated Press could not independently verify that Mr Snowden was the man who posted 19 replies to questions.
In answer to the question of whether he fled to Hong Kong because he was spying for China, Mr Snowden wrote, "Ask yourself: if I were a Chinese spy, why wouldn't I have flown directly into Beijing? I could be living in a palace petting a phoenix by now."