In an interview with Wired magazine on Wednesday, Snowden said he would voluntarily go to prison as long as it served the "right purpose."
The whistleblower explained that he did not want the US government to use the law as a "political weapon" to keep people away from their rights.
“I told the government I’d volunteer for prison, as long as it served the right purpose,” Snowden said. “I care more about the country than what happens to me. But we can’t allow the law to become a political weapon or agree to scare people away from standing up for their rights, no matter how good the deal. I’m not going to be part of that.”
Snowden, whom Wired described as “the most wanted man in the world,” said he still dreamed about returning home, even if it meant living behind bars.
The exiled whistleblower left the US in June 2013 to avoid incarceration on spying charges and has been living secretly in Moscow ever since. Snowden’s one-year asylum in Russia expired last week and Moscow extended it for three more years.
Last year, Snowden took thousands of top secret documents from the NSA and handed them to journalists. The disclosures have shed new lights on the US government’s mass spying programs and damaged US relations with multiple countries including some of its closest allies.
“I gave this information back to the public, to public hands, and the reason I did that was not to gain a label but to give you back a choice about the country you want to live in,” he said in the interview.
“I love my country. I feel like a patriot. And this is an important thing for me,” Snowden said when he was being photographed while wrapped in an American flag for a cover photo.
The government said Snowden stole 1.7 million documents, but he disputed the number as inflated. He also said he had left a trail of digital “bread crumbs” so that investigators could determine which documents he copied and which ones he only “touched.”
Snowden said he has given all NSA documents to First Look Media, which is led by journalist Glenn Greenwald.
The NSA said in a statement that they would gladly speak with Snowden but only on American soil.
"If Mr. Snowden wants to discuss his activities, that conversation should be held with the US Department of Justice. He needs to return to the United States to face the charges against him," the spy agency said.