Bush says US leaker 'damaged' national security

Former president George W. Bush defended US surveillance programs in an interview broadcast Monday.and said intelligence leaker Edward Snowden had "damaged" national security by disclosing them.

"I know he damaged the country and the Obama administration will deal with it," Bush told CNN in an interview to be broadcast in full later on Monday.

"I think he damaged the security of the country," added Bush, who spoke to the network in Zambia, where he and wife Laura Bush were traveling on a humanitarian mission.

"I put the program in place to protect the country and one of the certainties is civil liberties were guaranteed," Bush said.

"Ultimately, history will judge the decisions I made. I won't be around because it's going to take a while for the objective historians to show up.

"And so I'm pretty comfortable with it. I did what I did. I know the spirit in which I did it."

Snowden, a former IT contractor at the National Security Agency, sparked a furor by disclosing details of vast phone and Internet surveillance to the media.

He initially surfaced in Hong Kong before fleeing to Russia after US espionage charges were filed against him.

He is now believed to be holed up in a Moscow airport hotel and seeking asylum in Ecuador.

The top secret spy programs, set up by the Bush administration in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks, have continued under Obama, who says he has sought to balance national security and privacy.

Bush was to have a rare meeting with Obama on Tuesday, when the two will lay a wreath in Tanzania to honor the victims of the 1998 US embassy bombing.

Obama flew into Tanzania on the last leg of his three-nation Africa tour on Monday. Bush will be in the country for a forum of regional First Ladies hosted by his wife Laura, which will also be attended by Michelle Obama.

The current US president came to power after a 2008 election campaign in which he mounted stinging attacks on Bush's record on foreign policy and the economy.

But Bush, a Republican, has stayed largely out of sight since he left power in 2009, having vowed not to criticize his Democratic successor in public, and Obama aides say the two men have a good personal relationship.