NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden says it would “chill speech” and “erode the quality of our democracy” if he serves a long prison term in the U.S.

Snowden spoke by video at a New York news conference Wednesday. Advocates, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, are launching a public campaign to persuade President Barack Obama to pardon him.

Speaking from Moscow where he is in exile, Snowden said he performed a public service by giving thousands of classified documents to journalists in 2013.

Whistleblowers are “democracy’s safeguard of last resort,” he said.

“I am comfortable with the decisions I made,” Snowden said. “But I don’t think it’s up to me to decide the direction of the future of our society. I believe that it’s a participatory, multilateral decision and we should intentionally try to remove the outsize influence of a particular individual, and that includes myself. That’s why I do not myself ask for pardon and I never will.”

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday that the president believes Snowden should return to the U.S. to face charges. He said Obama’s position is that Snowden’s leaks harmed national security and put Americans at risk.

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