LONDON (CBS DC) – Google executive Chairman Eric Schmidt says he had no idea the NSA had tapped into his company’s network until it was revealed last year.

In an interview with¬†The Guardian, Schmidt says he “complained at great length” after documents leaked by Edward Snowden revealed the government was snooping on data from Google and Yahoo.

But he insists he had no knowledge beforehand.

“I have the necessary clearances to have been told, as do other executives in the company, but none of us were briefed,” Schmidt said.

“Had we been briefed, we probably couldn’t have acted on it, because we’d have known about it, he added.”

Schmidt, who was Google’s chief executive from 2001 to 2011, suggested the company does receive a small number of specific data requests from the NSA.

He said he declines to personally see the requests,¬†“I do not by choice, because if I did then I would be subject to a whole lot of rules. There’s a team of attorneys who see them.”

Schmidt said Google has been beefing up its internal encryption to prevent the NSA from gaining access to its internal network.

He tells The Guardian that the debate over U.S. and British government snooping is a healthy one.

But adds the level of interference is minimal compared to the restrictions the Chinese government places on Internet access for its citizens.

He predicts China will not be able to maintain those limits indefinitely.

“You can’t heavily censor that many people all the time. They don’t understand the power of empowering a hundred million Chinese, no matter how brutal they’re going to be with the bloggers.”

Asked whether Snowden should be pardoned or jailed, Schmidt hedged.

“I don’t think it’s so obvious one way or the other.”


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