Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who exposed the U.S. government's top-secret surveillance programs, fought back against his critics on Monday and denied allegations that he was a spy for China.
Snowden told an online forum run by Britain's Guardian newspaper that he revealed the programs in part out of disappointment with President Barack Obama, who he said had expanded "abusive" government programs while in office.
A defiant Snowden, believed to be in hiding in Hong Kong, dismissed suggestions such as comments on Sunday from former Vice President Dick Cheney that he was a traitor who could be sharing secret information with China.
He said being called a traitor by Cheney, instrumental in the expansion of surveillance programs, was "the highest honor" you can give an American.
"I have had no contact with the Chinese government," said Snowden, who has vowed to stay in the Chinese-run former British colony and fight any effort to extradite him to the United States.
"This is a predictable smear that I anticipated before going public ... Ask yourself: if I were a Chinese spy, why wouldn't I have flown directly into Beijing? I could be living in a palace petting a phoenix by now."
U.S. officials familiar with the investigations into Snowden said there was no evidence so far to suggest he had any contacts with China. In China's first substantive comments on Monday, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman rejected the suggestion that Snowden was a Chinese spy and said Washington should explain its surveillance programs to the world.
Snowden, the former employee of contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, who worked in an NSA facility in Hawaii before providing details to the Guardian and Washington Post, said the government's "litany of lies" about the programs helped convince him to act.
He said he was particularly disappointed in what he saw as Obama's failure to live up to the promises of his 2008 campaign.
As president, Snowden said, Obama has "closed the door on investigating systemic violations of law, deepened and expanded several abusive programs, and refused to spend the political capital to end the kind of human rights violations like we see in Guantanamo, where men still sit without charge."
Obama and administration officials have defended the surveillance programs as effective tools in their effort to protect Americans from terrorism and said they were instrumental in helping to disrupt dozens of potential attacks.
Obama reiterated on PBS's "Charlie Rose" show on Monday that there are trade-offs between privacy and national security but said that the government conducts its surveillance programs with oversight and restraint.
"What I can say unequivocally is that if you are a U.S. person, the NSA cannot listen to your telephone calls, and the NSA cannot target your emails ... and have not," Obama said in the interview taped on Sunday.
He also said he has "stood up," and will meet with, a privacy and civil liberties oversight board that includes "some fierce civil libertarians."
(Read More: Hail Edward Snowden, Public Servant: Economist)
The Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into Snowden's actions, and U.S. officials promised last week to track him down and hold him accountable for the leaks.