• Edward Snowden, 29, tells The Guardian he leaked secret information about the National Security Agency 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.”
• “My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.”
• “I think the sense of outrage that has been expressed is justified. It has given me hope that, no matter what happens to me, the outcome will be positive for America. I do not expect to see home again, though that is what I want.”
• “The only thing I fear is the harmful effects on my family…”
• “I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity.”
• “The government has granted itself power it is not entitled to. There is no public oversight.”
A 29-year-old former CIA worker and current defense contractor employee has come forward as the source of the leaks about the U.S. government’s secret Internet program, PRISM, to The Guardian newspaper:
The individual responsible for one of the most significant leaks in US political history is Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden has been working at the National Security Agency for the last four years as an employee of various outside contractors, including Booz Allen and Dell.
The Guardian, after several days of interviews, is revealing his identity at his request. From the moment he decided to disclose numerous top-secret documents to the public, he was determined not to opt for the protection of anonymity. “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” he said.
Snowden will go down in history as one of America’s most consequential whistleblowers, alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning. He is responsible for handing over material from one of the world’s most secretive organisations – the NSA.
In a note accompanying the first set of documents he provided, he wrote: “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.”
Snowden lives in Hawaii with his girlfriend, but flew to Hong Kong on May 20 before the bombshell story broke because “they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent.”
He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2003, and wanted to fight in the Iraq War to “help free people from oppression.” But he grew disillusioned by military trainers who “seemed pumped up about killing Arabs, not helping anyone.” He broke both his legs in a training accident and was ultimately discharged.
He started working for the NSA first as a security guard, and then in IT security for the CIA, where his knack for computers allowed him to rise quickly. He did a stint in Switzerland where he gained access to a wide range of classified documents.
He started working at the NSA in 2009 and said of its intelligence activities: “they are intent on making every conversation and every form of behavior in the world known to them.”
Snowden told The Guardian he had hoped Barack Obama’s election in 2008 would reform what he viewed as abuses by the U.S. government, but instead watched them continue and expand.
“I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity,” he said.
He charged that the NSA’s activities pose “an existential threat to democracy.”
Snowden knows the U.S. is looking for him — that the Chinese government could take him for information, or that he could be snatched by the CIA.
“All my options are bad,” Snowden said.
But he said he’s not afraid, even of prosecution by the Obama administration.
“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,” he said.
This post has been updated.