The National Security Agency contractor who revealed the government's top-secret monitoring of phone and Internet data says that he intends to stay in Hong Kong and fight any effort to bring him back to the United States to face charges.

Edward Snowden, in his first public comments since he dropped out of view in Hong Kong on Monday, said he did not travel to the former British colony to avoid punishment for leaking details of the surveillance program. “I am not here to hide from justice. I am here to reveal criminality,” Snowden told the South China Morning Post, an English-language newspaper in Hong Kong, in an interview published on Wednesday.

NSA and FBI officials have been collecting browsing data and snooping on Internet-based communications to fight terrorism

Snowden to stay in Hong Kong and fight extradition to the US

Snowden said, “My intention is to ask the courts and people of Hong Kong to decide my fate. I have had many opportunities to flee Hong Kong, but I would rather stay and fight the United States government in the courts, because I have faith in Hong Kong's rule of law.”

Snowden revealed details last week of the vast US government monitoring of phone and Internet data at big companies such as Google Inc and Facebook Inc in leaks to Britain's Guardian newspaper and the Washington Post. The revelations have sparked a criminal investigation and an internal Obama administration review of the potential damage to national security, as pressure has grown from lawmakers and advocacy groups to impose tighter controls on domestic surveillance.

Snowden, who had been working at an NSA facility as an employee of contractor Booz Allen Hamilton , has drawn a mix of condemnation and praise for the revelations. The controversy ignited a renewed debate about the balance between privacy rights and security concerns in the United States in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks. 

Hong Kong has an extradition agreement with the United States that has been exercised on numerous occasions, but so far Snowden has not been publicly charged and the United States has not filed for his extradition. In Washington, the head of the National Security Agency will appear before a U.S. Senate panel on Wednesday, offering the NSA's first public testimony since the revelations of the surveillance programs.

General Keith Alexander, NSA director and head of US Cyber Command, is expected to face pointed questions from the Senate Appropriations Committee. Alexander, who briefed senators on the issue behind closed doors on Tuesday, will be joined in the Senate budget hearing by other cybersecurity officials.

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