Journalist: Snowden fled US fearing unfair trial

Journalist: Snowden fled US fearing unfair trial

The American intelligence contractor who disclosed US government surveillance programs fled to Hong Kong because he believed he wouldn't get a fair trial in his home country, the journalist who broke the story said today.

Glenn Greenwald of Britain's The Guardian newspaper said Edward Snowden chose the semi-autonomous Chinese region because it was the least bad option open to him.

Greenwald said in an interview that Snowden wants to remain out of the "clutches" of the US government for as long as possible but is fully aware that he won't succeed.

Snowden says he worked as a contractor at the National Security Agency and the CIA.

He allowed The Guardian and The Washington Post newspapers to reveal his identity yesterday as the source of a series of top-secret documents outlining two NSA surveillance programs.

The Guardian reported that Snowden arrived in Hong Kong on May 20. He checked out of a Kowloon hotel today and his current location is unclear.

The Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation into the leaks at the request of the NSA.

"If the Justice Department does end up indicting him, which almost certainly it will, it's basically inevitable at this point, he doesn't really trust the judicial system in the United States to give him a fair trial," Greenwald said in Hong Kong.

"I think if he trusted the political system and the political culture in the United States he would have just remained there and said 'I did what I did and I want to defend it,'" Greenwald said.

He said Snowden chose Hong Kong because it has a history of strong political activism, free speech and respect for the rule of law. But he added that once Snowden decided to leak the information, "all of the options, as he put it, are bad options. There were no good options for him."

Hong Kong, a former British colony, was handed back to China in 1997 but was allowed to retain a high degree of autonomy and its own legal system. The city has an extradition treaty with the US, but it contains some exceptions, including for crimes deemed political.

Greenwald said Snowden had watched with concern the court martial of Bradley Manning, the US Army private on trial for handing a trove of classified material to WikiLeaks, and that it had raised fears for him about secrecy and "abridgement of due process."

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