In an interview published Tuesday in the Washington Post, Snowden said that his disclosures about the extent of NSA surveillance on phone and internet traffic had achieved his goal of sparking a debate over the nation's intelligence operations.
“For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished,” said Snowden. “I already won. As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated.
"I didn’t want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself,” Snowden said about his leaks.
Snowden's disclosures sparked a firestorm of controversy with civil liberties groups pressing for additional oversight on the NSA and an end to the agency's collection of phone metadata. He also revealed that the NSA had monitored foreign leaders, leading to international criticism of the U.S.
But supporters of the NSA, including President Obama, say that the agency's practices have thwarted terror attacks and saved lives.
Obama, though, has said he will seek to better balance national security and privacy concerns and is reviewing the findings from an outside task force which offered him 46 recommendations for reforming the NSA.
The president said he would reveal which proposals he would adopt in January, but also cautioned that he was confident the agency had not abused its powers.
“There have not been actual instances where its been alleged that the NSA acted inappropriately,” said Obama at his final press conference of the year. “I have confidence in the fact that the NSA is not engaging in domestic surveillance or snooping around.”
“We may have to refine this further to give people more confidence and we need to give more confidence for the international community,” he added.
A federal court last week ordered that the NSA halt its collection of phone metadata, but held the ruling pending a likely government appeal. On Capitol Hill, lawmakers will also hear from the NSA task force panel.
Snowden is facing espionage and theft charges in the U.S. and has evaded American law enforcement, receiving temporary asylum in Russia. His future remains uncertain.
Obama has sidestepped questions about whether Snowden could be offered a plea bargain or deal to return to the U.S.
Intelligence agencies want Snowden to return to assess the amount of classified information he took and to determine what additional secrets have fallen into the hands of America’s adversaries.
“All I wanted was for the public to be able to have a say in how they are governed,” Snowden told the Washington Post. “That is a milestone we left a long time ago. Right now, all we are looking at are stretch goals.”