By RYAN GORMAN
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden claims the spy agency spends more taxpayer money launching cyber attacks than it does protecting America from the intrusions.
The exiled former government contractor made the accusation in an interview filmed months ago with PBS' NOVA that is set to air in the near-future.
Snowden also claimed that cyber assaults similar to the Sony Pictures hacks are happening much more frequently than the general public is led to believe.
"I think the public still isn't aware of the frequency with which these cyber-attacks, as they're being called in the press, are being used by governments around the world, not just the US," Snowden told PBS from Moscow.
The whistleblower currently living in Moscow as a political refugee under special status granted by Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke concisely and appeared knowledgeable about the subject during the hourlong interview.
He said the NSA has undergone a departure from it's traditional purpose in recent years.
"They've become sort of the national hacking agency, the national surveillance agency," he claimed. "And they've lost sight of the fact that everything they do is supposed to make us more secure as a nation and a society."
Snowden claims the shift happened when top spies realized their budgets would be increased if they focused on hack attacks instead of defense.
"Nobody is ever really interested in doing the hard work of defense," he lamented. "When you deprioritize defense, you put all of us at risk. Suddenly, policies that would have been unbelievable, incomprehensible even 20 years ago are commonplace today."
The recently-minted Muscovite explained that going on the offense weakens the US to foes such as China and also sets the standard for lesser countries around the world.
"We're setting a standard, we're creating a new international norm of behavior that says this is what nations do," said Snowden. "This is what developed nations do.
"Other countries that don't have as much respect for the rules as we do will go even further."
Snowden further explained that enemies do not need to attack major targets because they can take the whole country down by going after infrastructure.
"If an adversary didn't target our power plants but they did target the core routers, the backbones that tie our Internet connections together, entire parts of the United States could be cut off," he explained.
"They could be shunted offline, and we would go dark in terms of our economy and our business for minutes, hours, days."
Snowden claims the only way to avoid such an occurrence in the future is for the NSA to radically change its cyber approach.
"The most important thing to us is not being able to attack our adversaries, the most important thing is to be able to defend ourselves."
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