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Snowden Slams NSA Review as 'Cosmetic'

"I will never exchange information for asylum and I don't think the Brazilian government would do that either."

Lauren McCauley

The recommendations set forth by an internal government NSA review panel are nothing but "cosmetic changes" staged to "restore public confidence" in the U.S. government's spying activities, charged NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in an email exchange with Brazil's O Globo news station.

Publicized Sunday during O Globo's "Fantastico" program, Snowden reportedly corresponded with reporter Sonia Bridi through his attorney in an effort to prevent interception and disclosure of his location.

"Their job wasn't to protect privacy or deter abuses, it was to restore public confidence in these spying activities. Many of the recommendations they made are cosmetic changes," said Snowden.

"The biggest offense one could commit in the U.S. isn't to damage the government, but rather to embarrass it," he continued. "It's clear that I could not possibly get a fair trial in my country."

The comments followed the publication last week of an open letter by Snowden to the people of Brazil, of which a media blitz falsely reported that Snowden had offered NSA secrets in exchange for asylum in Brazil despite there being no indication of such a plea.

"The price for my speech was my passport, but I would pay it again: I will not be the one to ignore criminality for the sake of political comfort. I would rather be without a state than without a voice," he wrote last week.

During the O Globo broadcast, reporters said Snowden had reiterated his vow saying, "I will never exchange information for asylum and I don't think the Brazilian government would do that either. A grant of asylum should always be a purely humanitarian decision."

Snowden added that U.S. law did not distinguish between a whistleblower revealing illegal programs "and a spy secretly selling documents to terrorists," O Globo reported.

Snowden's statement came as members of the Senate Judiciary Committee announced Sunday that a special session was set for January 14 during which the five members of the NSA review panel will discuss the 46 recommendations made by the panel. It will be the committee's first hearing of 2014.

"Momentum is building for real reform," said the committee’s Democratic chairman, Patrick Leahy (Vt.), in a statement announcing the hearing.

Echoing Leahy's statement, appearing on ABC's "This Week" Sunday, Senator Mark Udall (D-Colo.) said, "The arguments for the status quo fell apart this week in Washington."

"It's time now to have real reform, not a veneer of reform," Udall said, and "to rebuild the American people's trust in our intelligence community."

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