WASHINGTON - Fugitive self-proclaimed spy Edward Snowden admitted Wednesday he wants to return home, as he defended his massive leak of intelligence secrets, saying the abuse of the US Constitution left him no choice.
"If I could go any place in the world, that place would be home," Snowden said almost a year to the day since he revealed a stunning US surveillance dragnet mining data from phones and Internet companies around the world, including Europe.
"From day one, I said I'm doing this to serve my country. Whether amnesty or clemency is a possibility, that's for the public to decide," he told NBC in his first interview with US television since the scandal broke in early June last year.
And he sought to defend himself against charges led by the US administration that he is a traitor who endangered lives by revealing the extent of an NSA spying programme through the British daily The Guardian.
"The reality is the situation determined that this needed to be told to the public. You know, the constitution of the United States has been violated on a massive scale." But top US officials laughed off the idea of a clemency, with Secretary of State John Kerry saying the 30-year-old former CIA employee should "man up" and return to face trial.
Kerry's comments came as Snowden also alleged he was not just a low-level contractor working for the CIA, as the White House has repeatedly insisted.
"I was trained as a spy in sort of the traditional sense of the word in that I lived and worked undercover overseas - pretending to work in a job that I'm not - and even being assigned a name that was not mine," he told NBC.
Snowden said he had worked covertly as "a technical expert" for the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, and as a trainer for the Defence Intelligence Agency.
"I don't work with people. I don't recruit agents. What I do is, I put systems to work for the United States. And I've done that at all levels - from the bottom on the ground all the way to the top." But National Security Advisor Susan Rice swiftly denied his contention, replying "no" when asked by CNN if he had been a highly-trained undercover spy.