U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden, who is living in exile in Russia, said he wants a fair trial if he returns to the U.S. Photo by Gil C/Shutterstock
Sept. 16 (UPI) -- U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden said Monday he wants to return to the United States after six years in exile in Russia, but only if he gets a fair trial.
Snowden leaked classified documents about the U.S. government's mass collection of emails, phone calls and Internet activity in the name of national security surveillance as a National Security Agency contractor in June 2013. He was charged under the Espionage Act and currently lives in exile in Russia.
"I would like to return to the United States," Snowden told CBS This Morning. "This is the ultimate goal. But if I'm going to spend the rest of my life in prison, the bottom line demand that we have to agree to is that at least I get a fair trial. And that is the one thing the government has refused to guarantee because they won't provide access to what's called a public interest defense."
Snowden added that he's not "asking for a parade" or "a pardon" just a trial open to the public that allows the jury to consider his motives.
"I'm not asking for a pass," Snowden said. "What I'm asking for is a fair trial. And this is the bottom line that any American should require. We don't want people thrown in prison without the jury being able to decide that what they did was right or wrong.
"The government wants a different kind of trial," he continued. "They want to use special procedures they want to be able to close the courtroom, they want the public not to be able to go, know what's going on."
Snowden said the jury not being able to consider "why I did what I did" is his biggest bone of contention.
"Was it better for the United States? Did it benefit us? Or did it cause harm? They don't want the jury to be able to consider that at all. They want the jury strictly to consider whether these actions were lawful or unlawful not whether they were right or wrong. And I'm sorry, but that defeats the purpose of a jury trial."
Snowden now considers himself a privacy advocate and is promoting his new memoir, Permanent Record about his life and what motivated him to leak the documents in 2013.
The memoir is set to be published Tuesday.
On Monday, Snowden told Franceinter radio he would also like French President Emmanuel Macron to invite him to move to France where he applied for asylum in 2013 under then-President Francois Hollande.
French Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet told RTL she would like to welcome the whistleblower to France.
According to RTL, this was Belloubet's personal position.
"Nothing is decided," an adviser to Macron told RTL, adding it's unlikely to happen because it would cause diplomatic fallout with the United States.