By Matthew Cole and Erin McClam
Edward Snowden, in his NBC News exclusive interview with Brian Williams, said that he no longer has the thousands of spying documents he took from the National Security Agency.
“The reality is today, I hold no documents at all,” he said in interview excerpts released Thursday, one day after the extended interview aired in an NBC primetime special.
Snowden told Williams that he wanted the documents out of his hands both because it was a risk to have them in Russia and because it would have gone against his principles to use them for other means.
“Now, I could’ve held on to that and tried to use it to — to threaten the government,” Snowden said. “I could’ve used it to try to sell it or enrich myself. But that would’ve gone against everything that I was trying to do.”
“So the question was, what do I do with it at that point?” he continued. “And the solution that I came up with was to destroy it. To take it out of my hands and entrust it fully to the institutions of the press.”
Snowden said that he did not surrender documents to Russia to win his temporary asylum. He told Williams that he has no connection to the Russian government and has not met Russian President Vladimir Putin, although one analyst questioned that claim.
Getting rid of the documents, Snowden said, was “the best way to make sure that for example the Russians can’t break my fingers and — and compromise information or — or hit me with a bag of money until I give them something was not to have it at all. And the way to do that was by destroying the material that I was holding before I transited through Russia.”