The man who claims to be the whistleblower behind the revelation that the National Security Agency is gathering troves of data on individuals' telephone and internet use stepped forward on Sunday.
To watch the full interview at GuardianNews.com, click here.
Snowden, a 29-year-old former CIA employee who currently works as a contractor for the National Security Agency as an employee of contracting giant Booz Allen Hamilton, claimed responsibility for the leaks that have roiled Washington for the last week, saying: "I have no intention of hiding who I am because I have done nothing wrong."
Booz Allen confirmed later Sunday that Snowden worked for their firm for less than three months, assigned to a team in Hawaii.
Edward Snowden, in a screengrab from a video shot in Hong Kong by the Guardian newspaper
The Obama administration has shown itself willing to aggressively pursue those who leak confidential information, and Snowden says that he fully expects to be held accountable for what he did, but he remains unapologetic.
"I am not afraid, because this is the choice I've made," he told The Guardian
Noting that he enjoys a relatively comfortable life -- a stable career, a girlfriend with whom he lived in Hawaii, a close relationship with family -- Snowden said he is "willing to sacrifice all of that because I can't in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they're secretly building."
He says he does not see himself as a hero, "because what I'm doing is self-interested: I don't want to live in a world where there's no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity."
"The government has granted itself power it is not entitled to," he added. "There is no public oversight. The result is people like myself have the latitude to go further than they are allowed to."
CBS News' national security analyst Juan Zarate said he thinks Snowden might be "aggrandizing" the level of his access, but the leaks do bring cause for legitimate concern.
"It strikes me he may be overstating his access and what he was doing or could do," Zarate said. "But there is no question that the NSA, the government has access to lots of information and these leaks have revealed the big data that it had access to. It also has checks on what can be done with that information, and the NSA and other agencies make sure that analysts and others who have access to it are not doing things that are illegal and improper.
Department of Justice spokeswoman Nanda Chitre said they are in the initial stages of the investigation into the NSA leaks and declined further comment "in order to protect the integrity of the investigation."
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