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Bush on Snowden: ‘He damaged the security of the country’

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Edward Snowden (Guardian/Getty Images)

Former President George W. Bush has weighed in on the Edward Snowden saga, telling CNN the former National Security Agency contractor threatened the security of U.S. citizens by leaking information about the surveillance program his administration created after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.

"I know he damaged the country," Bush said in an interview from Zambia, where he and his wife, Laura, are on a humanitarian mission. "The Obama administration will deal with it. I think he damaged the security of the country."

According to the Los Angeles Times, Snowden met on Monday with Russian officials, appealing to 15 countries for political asylum.

Like President Barack Obama, Bush deflected criticism of the spy program.

"I put the program in place to protect the country, and one of the certainties is civil liberties were guaranteed," Bush said in the interview, which is scheduled to air on Monday afternoon. "I think there needs to be a balance [between security and privacy] and as the president described, there is a proper balance."

Bush also refused to criticize his successor. "It doesn't do any good," he said. "It's a hard job. He has plenty on his agenda and it's difficult. [A] former president doesn't need to make it harder."

The White House said Obama will meet Bush on Tuesday in Tanzania at a wreath-laying ceremony at the site of the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombing that killed 11 people.

Bush said he couldn't "care less" about his favorability rating, which has risen since he's left office.

"Only time I really cared was on Election Day," Bush said. "You know, I guess it's nice. Let me rephrase that. Thank you for bringing it up."

He added: "You know, ultimately history will judge the decisions that I made. And I won't be around because it's going to take a while for the objective historians to show up. So I'm pretty comfortable with it. I did what I did."

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