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NSA Leaker Edward Snowden Offers Christmas Message To The Public

WASHINGTON (WJZ) -- Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden offers a Christmas message to the British public. From Russia, where he's been granted temporary asylum, he pressed for an end to mass government surveillance.

Rochelle Ritchie reports.

NSA leaker Edward Snowden addressed the British people in a pre-taped message, calling U.K. and U.S. governments surveillance worse than anything George Orwell described in his novel 1984.

"We have sensors in our pockets that track us everywhere we go. Think about what this means for the privacy of the average person," Snowden said.

Britain's Channel 4 broadcasts an alternative to the queen's annual Christmas address, and this year, chose Snowden for the message.

It's a victory lap for the former NSA computer specialist, who earlier this week told the Washington Post he's "already won" by jump-starting a worldwide debate on government intrusion.

Snowden started leaking top secret documents seven months ago, disclosing NSA's collection of massive amounts of phone and Internet data.

The government argues the surveillance programs help fight terrorism, but public unease has forced the Obama Administration to reevaluate.

The president is now considering 46 recommendations from a review panel, urging curbs on the programs. The panel wrote: "Excessive surveillance and unjustified secrecy can threaten civil liberties, public trust, and the core processes of democratic self-government."

Snowden framed his TV message in a similar way.

"Together, we can find a better balance, end mass surveillance and remind the government that if it really wants to know how we feel, asking is always cheaper than spying," he said.

Snowden faces charges of espionage and felony theft of government property in the U.S.

This was Snowden's first TV appearance since his arrival in Russia. Snowden lived here in Maryland for a period of time as well.

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