National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden says he considers himself a patriot for leaking classified documents detailing the U.S. government's spying activities.
Snowden told NBC's Brian Williams that while working as a systems analyst for an NSA contractor, he saw the massive scale of surveillance against U.S. citizens and felt it was his duty to act.
"The situation determined that this needed to be told to the public. The Constitution of the United States has been violated on a massive scale," Snowden said in a portion of the interview broadcast Wednesday on the "NBC Nightly News."
"Had the government not gone too far and overreached, we wouldn't be in a situation where whistleblowers were necessary," Snowden said.
Snowden said he did not take the action lightly. It was not easy for him to pack up without saying goodbye to his family and flee the comfortable life he was living, he said.
Not everyone agrees with Snowden's assessment of himself. Public sentiment is divided, and Secretary of State John Kerry told MSNBC that Snowden is a "coward" and a "traitor" who should return to "face the music" in court.
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Snowden is currently living in Russia under temporary asylum. He spoke to Williams in a Moscow hotel.
But there is no question he'd like to go home.
"If I could go anywhere in the world, that place would be home," Snowden said.
Still, he isn't eager to make a deal.
"My priority is not about myself. It's about making sure that these programs are reformed, and that the family that I left behind, the country that I left behind, can be helped by my actions," he told Williams.
Snowden's temporary asylum runs out Aug. 1, and he said he will re-apply if it appears he is still living in limbo at that time.
NBC will play an hour of Williams' interview with Snowden on Wednesday night at 10 p.m. EDT.
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