NSA 'engaged in industrial espionage' - Snowden

Edward Snowden Mr Snowden's defenders say his leaks were in the public interest but many Americans consider him a traitor

US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden has alleged the National Security Agency engaged in industrial espionage.

In an interview with Germany's ARD TV channel, the former NSA contractor said the agency would spy on big German companies that competed with US firms.

Mr Snowden, who was granted temporary asylum by Russia, also said he believed that US officials wanted to kill him.

His leaks caused outrage in Germany when it came to light Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone had been bugged.

After the row broke out last year, Mrs Merkel accused the US of an unacceptable breach of trust.

Last week President Barack Obama indicated to Germany's ZDF TV that US bugging of Mrs Merkel's mobile phone had been a mistake and would not happen again.

How intelligence is gathered

How intelligence is gathered
  • Accessing internet company data
  • Tapping fibre optic cables
  • Eavesdropping on phones
  • Targeted spying

Mr Snowden's new allegation about industrial spying may make it harder to rebuild trans-Atlantic trust, the BBC's Stephen Evans reports from Berlin.

Referring to the German engineering company Siemens, Mr Snowden told ARD: "If there is information at Siemens that they [the NSA] think would be beneficial to the national interests, not the national security, of the United States, they will go after that information and they'll take it."

He also said he believed US agents want to kill him, referring to an article published by the Buzzfeed website in which intelligence operatives are quoted as saying they want to see him dead.

In August Russia granted Mr Snowden asylum for one year, after he leaked details of US electronic surveillance programmes.

The US has charged Mr Snowden with theft of government property, unauthorised communication of national defence information and wilful communication of classified communications intelligence.

Each of the charges carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence. Earlier this week he said he has "no chance" of a fair trial in the US and has no plans to return there.

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