Controversial U.S. fugitive Edward Snowden has blamed the government for stranding him in Russia, something which he never intended to happen. Secretary of State John Kerry fired back, however, calling it a "dumb answer" and accusing him of helping terrorists.
"I personally am surprised that I ended up here," Snowden said in an interview with NBC News set to air on Wednesday, his first with a U.S. TV network.
"The reality is I never intended to end up in Russia," he continued. "I had a flight booked to Cuba onwards to Latin America and I was stopped because the United States government decided to revoke my passport and trap me in Moscow Airport."
Kerry responded, sayingthat "for a supposedly smart guy, that's a pretty dumb answer, frankly."
"If Mr. Snowden wants to come back to the United States today, we'll have him on a flight today," Kerry said.
"We'd be delighted for him to come back. He should come back. That's what a patriot would do. A patriot would not run away and look for refuge in Russia or Cuba or some other country. A patriot would stand up in the United States and make his case to the American people."
The secretary of State added that "what he's done is expose for terrorists a lot of mechanisms which now affect operational security of those terrorists and make it harder for the United States to break up plots, harder to protect our nation," he said.
Kerry also clarified that Snowden is indeed a fugitive and would have to face the U.S. Justice system for his actions.
In 2013, the former National Security Agency contractor admitted to leaking information about secret U.S. programs that collect data on all phone calls made on the Verizon network, as well as the Internet data of foreigners from major Internet companies like Microsoft, Google, and Apple.
Kerry insisted that if Snowden did what he did for the good of the American people, then he should "trust in the American system of justice" rather than live in Russia under temporary asylum.
In his interview, Snowden revealed that he was "trained as a spy" for the U.S. Government.
"I was trained as a spy in sort of the traditional sense of the word, in that I lived and worked undercover overseas – pretending to work in a job that I'm not – and even being assigned a name that was not mine," he explained.
"But I am a technical specialist. I am a technical expert," he added. "I don't work with people. I don't recruit agents. What I do is I put systems to work for the United States. And I've done that at all levels from the bottom on the ground all the way to the top."
In January, Snowden was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by a pair of Norewgian lawmakers, who argued that his whistleblowing "has contributed to a more stable and peaceful world order."
Bard Vegar Solhjell and Snorre Valen of the Socialist Left Party in Norway said that the fugitive's revelations "may have damaged the security interests of several nations in the short term," and that they do not support all of his actions, but they are "convinced" that the public debate on policy changes that has followed has benefited the world.
"His actions have in effect led to the reintroduction of trust and transparency as a leading principle in global security policies. Its value can't be overestimated," they added.