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Greenwald: Snowden has enough information to cause US govt ‘worst damage in history’

Published time: July 13, 2013 20:09
Edited time: July 14, 2013 13:33
AFP Photo / Vasily Maximov

AFP Photo / Vasily Maximov

Former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden possesses dangerous information which could potentially lead to America's “worst nightmare” if it is revealed, according to the journalist who first published Snowden's leaked documents.

“Snowden has enough information to cause more damage to the US government in a minute alone than anyone else has ever had in the history of the United States,” Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist responsible for publishing some of Snowden’s first leaks, told Argentina-based newspaper La Nación.

“But that's not his goal. His objective is to expose software that people around the world use without knowing what they are exposing themselves to, without consciously agreeing to surrender their rights to privacy. He has a huge number of documents that would be very harmful to the US government if they were made public,” Greenwald said.

He added that Washington should be exercising care in dealing with the Snowden because he has the potential to do further damage to the US.

“The US government should be on its knees every day begging that nothing happen to Snowden, because if something does happen to him, all the information will be revealed and it could be its worst nightmare,” he said.

Greenwald said that “the most important thing [for Snowden] is not to end up in US custody,” describing  the government’s approach to people who reveal uncomfortable truths as “vindictive.”

When asked whether he believed that someone would attempt to harm or kill the whistleblower, he said that Snowden has “already distributed thousands of documents and made sure that several people around the world have their entire file,” stating that it would not be beneficial for anyone to attempt assassination.

He added that the US should be praying that no one would attempt to take Snowden’s life. “If something happens, all the information will be revealed, and that would be [America’s] worst nightmare,” he said.

Greenwald later responded to initial reports on the interview, rebutting allegations that he was "blackmailing" or "threatening" the US. He stated in a Guardian column that the reported fact Snowden had created a "dead man's switch" of sorts was not new, but he was rather reiterating that it was precaution "against all eventualities," adding that  he himself does not have access to the "insurance" documents and played no role in arranging the dead man's switch.

Greenwald also pointed out Snowden's insistence that journalistic discretion was exercised. "The oft-repeated claim that Snowden's intent is to harm the US is completely negated by the reality that he has all sorts of documents that could quickly and seriously harm the US if disclosed, yet he has published none of those," Greenwald wrote.

Glenn Greenwald, the blogger and journalist.(Reuters / Sergio Moraes)

Snowden is wanted in the US on charges of espionage after revealing details of the country’s covert surveillance programs.

He has been in limbo at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport since arriving from Hong Kong on June 23. The whistleblower is seeking to find a safe, secure transit route to Latin America, where he has made several successful asylum requests. Greenwald told Reuters on Tuesday that it was likely that Snowden would accept Venezuela’s offer.

Snowden broke three weeks of hiding in the airport to speak with human rights activists on Friday, mentioning that he would immediately request asylum from Russia. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Saturday: “We are not in contact with Snowden,” adding that he has to contact the Russian Migration Service to formally apply for asylum.

Migration officials said on Saturday that they had not received asylum requests from Snowden.

“As of today, we haven’t gotten any applications from Edward Snowden,” Konstantin Romodanovskiy, head of Russia’s Federal Migration Service, told Interfax. He added that the plea will “be considered in accordance with Russian law” if it is received.

Greenwald told La Nación that although few countries have the power or will to defy the US, “Russia is one of those countries.”

Snowden’s leaks have upset Washington and its friends and enemies alike. Latin American countries were especially concerned with the extent of spying being conducted on their internet traffic.

“Latin America feels a natural sympathy for the United States, yet there is a great resentment for specific historic policies of Washington toward the region. What happened to [Bolivian President] Evo Morales’ plane in Europe induced a strong reaction. Bolivia was treated as a colony and not a sovereign state,” said Greenwald.

Greenwald hinted that further leaks are possible which are relevant to South America, including documents which outline how the US collects traffic information, the programs used, and the number of interceptions made on a daily basis.

It was revealed at the end of June that the US spies on dozens of foreign embassies and missions. A leaked document published in the Guardian listed 38 foreign embassies and missions which were spied upon in the US, describing them as “targets” under surveillance.

News that the EU member states were targeted by US intelligence has sparked outrage among the allies. France even expressed willingness to delay the start of negotiations on a huge free trade deal between the EU and the United States, demanding an explanation for the spying practices.

“We cannot accept this kind of behavior between partners and allies,” Hollande told journalists at the beginning of July. “There can be no negotiations or transactions in all areas until we have obtained these guarantees,” he said.

“Bugging friends is unacceptable,” said Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert. “We are no longer in the Cold War.”