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Edward Snowden honored by former U.S. intelligence officials

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MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) -

To some he's a hero, to others he's a traitor. Now, whistleblower Edward Snowden is an award-winning patriot.

A group of former intelligence officials, including FBI whistleblower and Minnesotan Coleen Rowley, traveled to Russia to recognize Snowden for what they call his "integrity."

Back in June, the former NSA contractor leaked details about a massive surveillance program aimed at finding terrorists by monitoring the internet and cell phone use of virtually every American.

Rowley's delegation was the first group of Americans to meet Snowden in person. They met for several hours and say he was not a low level contractor who somehow gained access to classified information.

"Many times in intelligence agencies they call it compartmentalization, and you really are only focused on some little narrow area and you really wouldn't know if abuses were occurring someplace else," Rowley said. "He actually was in a position to see the larger picture."

Rowley says the volume of secrets in government has grown out of control, in part because of the belief that secrets will protect the public. But in reality the opposite is true. She said intelligence agencies have developed an "insider threat program" which profiles disgruntled employees who could be potential whistleblowers.

Since leaking details about the top secret intelligence program, Snowden has been given temporary asylum in Russia. He's also been charged in the U.S. with espionage for leaking those NSA secrets.

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