WASHINGTON — From a secret location in Hong Kong, he told the newspaper: "The reality is that I have acted at great personal risk to help the public of the world, regardless of whether that public is American, European, or Asian."
Snowden's leaked documents have had an enormous impact. Some have questioned, however, his descriptions of his power as a Booz Allen contractor and other details of his life.
For example, he said he was earning $200,000 a year. When Booz Allen fired him, they said his salary was $122,000.
"I, sitting at my desk, had the authority to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president if I had a personal email," Snowden told The Guardian on videotape.
Asked by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, about that comment, NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander said simply that it was false. "I know of no way to do that," Alexander told senators in a hearing Wednesday.
Former NSA and CIA director retired Gen. Mike Hayden called Snowden's claim "absurd legally and technologically." Former NSA Inspector General Joel Brenner also doubts it.
"I do not believe his statement," Brenner said. "And if he tried, I believe he would be discovered, stripped of his clearance, and summarily fired."
Brenner said, however, that Snowden appears to have had extraordinary access to things he should not have and that will be investigated.
Snowden also raised eyebrows by declaring that in his job he "had access to the full roster of everyone working at the NSA, the entire intelligence community and undercover assets all around the world, the locations of every station we have, what their missions are and so forth."
Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, who first reported the phone-tracking program and conducted the Snowden interviews, describes him as "very steadfast and resolute about the fact that he did the right thing."