This is a predictable smear that I anticipated before going public, as the US media has a knee-jerk "RED CHINA!" reaction to anything involving HK or the PRC, and is intended to distract from the issue of US government misconduct. Ask yourself: if I were a Chinese spy, why wouldn't I have flown directly into Beijing? I could be living in a palace petting a phoenix by now.... that the questioner comes back and demands "a flat yes or no." He says:
No. I have had no contact with the Chinese government. Just like with the Guardian and the Washington Post, I only work with journalists.I still don't know the complete answer to the first question, however, which asked if he will provide — that is, in the future — classified information to the Chinese.
He gives the flat "no," but I see that the followup question was "Regarding whether you have secretly given classified information to the Chinese government, some are saying you didn't answer clearly - can you give a flat no?" That refers only to the past: have you given info. He says "no" only to that, and the sentence after the "no" also refers only to the past. The next sentence is in the present tense: I only work with journalists. There is no flat no about what he might do in the future. Even assuming that he's scrupulous about truth-telling now — we can infer that he wasn't scrupulous about the promises he made to gain security clearance — he has not made an assertion about the future.
Also "I could be living in a palace petting a phoenix by now" could be read as a clue that he's making things up, since there is no such beast as a phoenix. I check "phoenix" at Urban Dictionary:
3. Phoenix 128 up, 98 downYou could pet that. (Miscellaneous: Urban Dictionary definitions #1 and #2 relate to the city in Arizona. Factoid discovered in Googling "phoenix": "Image of Jesus appears on floor tile at Phoenix airport... The smudge in Terminal 3 of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport has become a pilgrimage site in recent weeks, as visitors have come to see for themselves whether the Lord and Savior flies coach or first-class.")
Coolest person you will ever meet. They're smart, funny, and extremely good-looking. In a nutshell they're the one everyone wants to be friends with and date.
Back to Snowden. Asked why he didn't stay in this country, he expresses complete mistrust for the legal system:
[T]he US Government... immediately and predictably destroyed any possibility of a fair trial at home, openly declaring me guilty of treason and that the disclosure of secret, criminal, and even unconstitutional acts is an unforgivable crime. That's not justice, and it would be foolish to volunteer yourself to it if you can do more good outside of prison than in it.Perhaps another way of putting this — without calling the legal system corrupt — would be to admit that you know you have committed serious crimes and the evidence is so clear that you are nearly certain that you will be convicted in a perfectly fair trial.
The final clause can stand as an independent opinion: Even with full justice, it's foolish to volunteer to go to prison if you think you can do more good outside of prison. In classic civil disobedience, one accepts the law's punishment. Volunteering to go to prison is portrayed as admirable and courageous, and not foolish. He is calling Henry David Thoreau and Martin Luther King, Jr. foolish, except to the extent that he's got a loophole: The question whether you do more good in prison than out of prison.
For Thoreau and King, perhaps being imprisoned does good — it's an important gesture. But for Snowden — he's done the cost benefit analysis and he can do more good if he stays free. That strikes me as ludicrous, but there's also the out of saying you're not doing old-fashioned civil disobedience. You're redefining it for a new era.