Edward Snowden,ex-CIA employee behind the biggest leak in NSA history,outs himself; says no reason to hide as hes done no wrong
29-year-old knows he will be made to suffer,may be rendered by CIA and wont see home again,but he needed to inform the public
Whistleblower was holed up in Hong Kong hotel where he gave the interview to Guardian; reported to have checked out Monday morning
A 29-YEAR-OLD former CIA computer technician went public on Sunday as the source behind the daily drumbeat of disclosures about the nations surveillance programmes,saying he took the extraordinary step because the public needs to decide whether these programmes and policies are right or wrong.
During a 12-minute video interview that went online Sunday,Edward Joseph Snowden calmly answered questions about his journey from being a well-compensated government contractor with nearly unlimited access to Americas intelligence secrets to being holed up in a Hong Kong hotel room,the subject of a United States investigation,with the understanding that he could spend the rest of his life in jail.
The revelation came after days of speculation that the source behind a series of leaks that have transfixed Washington must have been a high-level official at one of Americas spy agencies. Instead,the leaker is a relatively low-level employee of a giant government contractor,Booz Allen Hamilton,that has won billions of dollars in secret government contracts over the past decade,partly by aggressively marketing itself as the premier protector of Americas classified computer infrastructure.
Snowden,who said he was seeking asylum abroad,perhaps in Iceland,gave the interview to The Guardian. Both The Guardian and The Washington Post identified Snowden on Sunday as the source for their articles.
In his interview with The Guardian,Snowden said his job had given him access to myriad secrets that the US government guards most jealously,including the locations of Central Intelligence Agency stations overseas and the identities of undercover agents working for the US.
But he said he had been selective in what he disclosed,releasing only what he found to be the greatest abuses of a surveillance state that he came to view as reckless and having grown beyond reasonable boundaries. He was alternately defiant and resigned,saying at one point that the CIA might try to spirit him out of China,and speculating that it might even hire Asian gangs to go after him.
If you realize that thats the world you helped create and it is going to get worse with the next generation and the next generation and extend the capabilities of this architecture of oppression,you realize that you might be willing to accept any risks and it doesnt matter what the outcome is, Snowden said.
Snowdens disclosures prompted some calls from Congress on Sunday to hold hearings about the surveillance programmes or reopen debate on portions of the Patriot Act.
Snowden,a native of North Carolina,told The Guardian that he signed up in 2003 for an Army Special Forces training program because he wanted to fight in Iraq.
I felt like I had an obligation as a human being to help free people from oppression, he said.
But he said he had quickly become disillusioned with the military.
Most of the people training us seemed pumped up about killing Arabs,not helping anyone, he said.
After breaking his legs during a training accident,Snowden was discharged from the Army and took a job as a security guard at an NSA secret facility on the University of Marylands campus,according to The Guardian,which said it had confirmed his story.
Despite not having a high school degree,he was later hired by the CIA to work on information technology security,serving in Geneva.
Most recently,Snowden has been part of a Booz Allen team working at an NSA facility in Hawaii. Three weeks ago,he made final preparations to disclose the classified documents,The Guardian said.
It said he had copied the documents and told a supervisor that he needed to take a few weeks off to deal with medical problems. He then flew to Hong Kong.
While it was not clear whether Snowden had remained in Hong Kong,if he had,his presence could complicate any possible American effort to extradite him for prosecution.
Hong Kong has an extradition agreement with the United States,in case American officials can provide a legal basis for seeking Snowdens transfer to the US.
On Sunday evening,Booz Allen released a statement confirming Snowdens employment.
News reports that this individual has claimed to have leaked classified information are shocking,and if accurate,this action represents a grave violation of the code of conduct and core values of our firm, the statement said. We will work closely with our clients and authorities in their investigation of this matter.
MARK MAZZETTI and MICHAEL S SCHMIDT
The india connect
Spy programmes helped track David Headley
The leaders of the US Senate and House Intelligence committees have defended the NSAs phone and internet surveillance programmes,saying it has been critical in thwarting potential terrorist attacks and also helped track the 2008 Mumbai attacks convict David Headley. Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Senator Dianne Feinstein said the NSA phone programme had helped disrupt a 2009 plot to bomb New York Citys subways. Feinstein said the programme also helped track David Headley,a Pakistani-American who travelled to Mumbai to scope Taj Mahal Hotel for an attack, ABC News reported. Headley was arrested by the US security agencies in October 2009 for scouting the targets of the Mumbai terror attack for terror organisation LeT. PTI