Societal

BREAKING NEWS: Defense contractor, 29, who leaked NSA documents reveals himself

  • Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former CIA  technical assistant, says he passed the classified information to The Guardian
  • The documents  blew open a number of intense NSA surveillance operations and caused a firestorm  over the government’s actions
  • Snowden, a high  school drop-out, says he leaked information because  he doesn’t ‘want to live in  a society that does these sort of things’
  • Comes after  National Intelligence director James R Clapper defended the surveillance  programs for keeping America safe
  • NSA filed  criminal report with Justice Dept. in relation to leaks to The Guardian and The  Washington Post

By  Anna Sanders and Helen Pow

PUBLISHED: 14:09 EST, 9 June  2013 |  UPDATED: 15:34  EST, 9 June 2013

The whistle-blower responsible for leaking  confidential NSA documents in one of the most serious breaches in U.S. political  history has come forward.

Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former CIA  technical assistant, claims he passed the classified information that blew open  a number of intense surveillance operations to the media because he doesn’t  ‘want to live in a society that does these sort of things.’

Snowden, who now works for Booz Allen  Hamilton, a defense contractor for the National Security Agency, caused a  firestorm after he leaked the top-secret documents to The Guardian over several  days of interviews.

Whistle-blower: Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former CIA technical assistant, claims he passed the classified information to the media 

Whistle-blower: Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former CIA  technical assistant, claims he passed the classified information to the  media

 

He said he wanted to own up to the leak  because he didn’t believe he’d done anything illegal.

‘I have no intention of hiding who I am  because I know I have done nothing wrong,’ he told The  Guardian.

 

Explaining his decision to disclose the  sensitive documents, North Carolina native said: ‘I  understand that I will be  made to suffer for my actions,’ but ‘I will be satisfied if the federation of  secret law, unequal pardon and  irresistible executive powers that rule the  world that I love are  revealed even for an instant.’

He said he was bracing for the government to  demonize him, but he hoped  that his coming forward would not divert attention  away from the  revelations he made public.

‘I really want the focus to be on these  documents and the debate which I  hope this will trigger among citizens around  the globe about what kind  of world we want to live in,’ he told The Guardian.

‘My sole motive is to inform the public as to  that which is done in their name and that which is done against  them.’

Hide out: Snowden boarded a plane to Hong Kong, pictured, on May 20 and has been there since 

Hide out: Snowden boarded a plane to Hong Kong,  pictured, on May 20 and has been there since

Snowden was living ‘a very  comfortable life’  with his live-in girlfriend in Hawaii, where he earned $200,000 with Booz  Allen.

But he said: ‘I’m willing to sacrifice all of  that because I can’t in good  conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy  privacy, internet  freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with  this  massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.’

According to The Guardian, Snowden copied the  final set of documents he intended to disclose three weeks ago, at the NSA  office in Hawaii where he had been working.

He then told his boss and his girlfriend that  he’d be away for a few weeks, keeping the reasons vague as only someone working  in intelligence can, and on May 20, he boarded a plane to Hong Kong, where he  remains.

He chose Hong Kong because ‘they have a  spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent,’ he  said.

Defensive: Director of National Intelligence James R Clapper said in a statement Saturday that disclosures on intelligence gathering practices were 'reckless' 

Defensive: Director of National Intelligence James R  Clapper said in a statement Saturday that disclosures on intelligence gathering  practices were ‘reckless’

 

The Director of National Intelligence James R Clapper responded Saturday to the disclosure of classified government surveillance programs as a new report sheds light on the gathering system 'Boundless Informant'Informant: The Director of National Intelligence James R Clapper released a statement on PRISM, which is reported to have been used to gather information from Internet companies like Facebook

Informant: The Director of National Intelligence James R  Clapper, left, released a statement on PRISM, which is reported to have been  used to gather information from the data centers of Internet companies like  Facebook, one of which is pictured left

'Necessary': The top intelligence official, James R Clapper, said the NSA's intelligence measures disclosed in recent reports were 'used to keep Americans safe' 

‘Necessary’: The top intelligence official, James R  Clapper, said the NSA’s intelligence measures disclosed in recent reports were  ‘used to keep Americans safe’

Snowden said he has been holed up in a hotel  room since arriving in the city, leaving it just three times for  fear he’s  being spied on.

He described to the newspaper how he rims the  door of the plush hotel  room, where he is eating all of his meals, with pillows  to prevent  anyone from eavesdropping.

Snowden has good reason to be  concerned. The  NSA – the most powerful and secretive organization in the world – is hunting him  down, having visited his home in Hawaii twice  and already contacted his  girlfriend.

Sitting in his hotel room alone, he has  watched television reports and read  articles online since the news of the leaks  first broke, and he is  well aware of the threats being thrown his  way.

And given the Obama administration’s track  record at prosecuting  whistle-blowers, he fully expects to get the same  treatment. But he  insists he is not afraid of what lies ahead because ‘this is  the choice  I’ve made,’ he told The Guardian.

According to newspaper, he broke down just  once during the series of interviews, when he was discussing the impact his  actions would have on his family, many of whom work in government agencies or  departments. He said these fears for his family’s welfare kept him up at  night.

Snowden’s ability to get to the center of the  NSA is impressive given he attended community college in Maryland to obtain his  high school diploma but dropped out before completing.

Ten years ago he enlisted in the US army and  began a training program to join the Special Forces, explaining to The Guardian  that he wanted to fight in the Iraq war because he felt he had an obligation as  a human being to help free people from oppression – the same reason he is giving  to justify his leaks. But he broke both his legs in a training accident and was  discharged.

He got his first NSA job working as a  security guard at one of the agency’s facilities at the University of Maryland  before moving to the CIA to work on IT security. There, he rose  quickly.

He was given more and more access to  top-secret documents as he climbed the ranks. And in 2007, he was stationed with  diplomatic cover in Geneva, Switzerland, where he was responsible for  maintaining computer network security.

The clearance sparked his concern for the  intense surveillance detailed in the documents.

He told The Guardian of one incident where  CIA operatives got a Swiss banker drunk in an effort to recruit him as an  informant to obtain secret banking information.

He said they encouraged him to drive home  intoxicated in his car and when he was arrested for DUI, the undercover agents  offered to help and managed to recruit the banker after the favor.

He said this and other things he witnessed in  Geneva disillusioned him about how his government worked and how this in turn  impacted the world.

‘I realized that I was part of something that  was doing far more harm than good,’ he said.

He told The Guardian that he first considered  exposing the Government’s secrets in Geneva but he chose not to because he  didn’t want to endanger anyone – the CIA deals in people rather than systems or  technology.

When he quit that role in 2009, he took up a  job with an outside contractor and was assigned to an NSA facility in  Japan.

He said he was disappointed President Obama  advanced the policies he was hoping the newly elected President was stamp out,  and that ‘hardened’ him.

He said he could no longer wait around for  someone else to act, and after spending three years learning just how ‘intent’  the NSA was to make every conversation and behavior in the world known to them,  he took the leap.

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