News / USA

Ex-CIA Employee Reveals His Motive for Leaks

US, British Newspapers Identify NSA Whistlebloweri
June 10, 2013 10:17 AM
A British and a U.S. newspaper have identified an employee of the National Security Agency as the source of information that revealed the U.S. spy agency is monitoring Americans' phone calls.
An ex-CIA employee working as a contractor at the U.S. National Security Agency said he was the source who leaked details of a top secret U.S. surveillance program, acting out of conscience to protect “basic liberties for people around the world.''
Holed up in a hotel room in Hong Kong, Edward Snowden, 29, said he had thought long and hard before publicizing details of an NSA program code-named PRISM, saying he had done so because he felt the United States was building an unaccountable and secret espionage machine that spied on every American.
His whereabouts were not immediately known on Monday, but staff at a luxury hotel in Hong Kong told Reuters that Snowden had checked out at noon.
Snowden, a former technical assistant at the CIA, said he had been working at the super-secret NSA as an employee of contractor Booz Allen. He said he decided to leak information after becoming disenchanted with President Barack Obama, who he said had continued the policies of predecessor George W. Bush.
“I don't want to live in a society that does these sort of things ... I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under,'' he told The Guardian newspaper, which published a video interview with him on its website. The interview was dated June 6.
Both The Guardian and the Washington Post said last week that U.S. security services had monitored data about phone calls from Verizon and Internet data from large companies such as Google and Facebook.
In naming Snowden on Sunday, the newspapers said he had sought to be identified.
“The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything,'' Snowden said in explaining his actions.
“With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your emails or your wife's phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards,'' he said.
Worked at NSA for 4 years
The Guardian said Snowden had been working at the NSA for four years as a contractor for outside companies.
Three weeks ago, he copied the secret documents at the NSA office in Hawaii and told his supervisor he needed “a couple of weeks'' off for treatment for epilepsy, the paper said. On May 20 he flew to Hong Kong.
The CIA and the White House declined to comment, while a spokesman for the Director of National Intelligence would not comment directly about Snowden himself but said the intelligence community was reviewing damage done by the recent leaks.
“Any person who has a security clearance knows that he or she has an obligation to protect classified information and abide by the law,'' said the spokesman, Shawn Turner.
The NSA has requested a criminal probe into the leaked information. On Sunday, the U.S. Justice Department said it was in the initial stages of a criminal investigation following the leaks.
Booz Allen, a U.S. management and technology consultancy, said reports of the leaked information were “shocking and if accurate, this action represents a grave violation'' of company policy.
It said Snowden had been employed by the company for less than three months and that it would cooperate with any investigations.
A spokesman for Dell Inc. declined to comment on reports that Snowden had been employed at that company. In 2009, Dell acquired Perot Systems, a U.S. government contractor that did work for U.S. intelligence agencies.
Snowden's decision to reveal his identity and whereabouts lifts the lid on one of the biggest security leaks in U.S. history and escalates a story that has placed a bright light on Obama's extensive use of secret surveillance.
The exposure of the secret programs has triggered widespread debate within the United States and abroad about the vast reach of the NSA, which has expanded its surveillance dramatically in since the Sept. 11 attacks on Washington and New York in 2001.
U.S. officials say the agency operates within the law. Some members of Congress have indicated support for the NSA activities, while others pushed for tougher oversight and possible changes to the law authorizing the surveillance.
Why Hong Kong?
One legal expert was puzzled as to why Snowden fled to Hong Kong, because it has an extradition treaty with the United States while mainland China does not.
In routine criminal cases, unlike this one, Hong Kong had shown a willingness in recent years to extradite people to face charges in the United States, he said.
In the video, Snowden said that “Hong Kong has a strong tradition of free speech.''
Hong Kong returned from British to Chinese rule in 1997, but still enjoys some autonomy in business and governmental functions.
However, under Hong Kong's Fugitives Offenders Ordinance, Beijing can issue an “instruction'' to the city's leader to take or not take action on extraditions where the interests of China “in matters of defense or foreign affairs would be significantly affected.''
Typically, U.S. visitors in Hong Kong are granted a 90-day visa. According to the Guardian, Snowden left Hawaii for Hong Kong on May 20.
Hong Kong's Security Bureau, which is charged with law enforcement and immigration matters, had no immediate response when asked about the case.
Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian newspaper journalist who broke the story and interviewed Snowden last week, told the local South China Morning Post newspaper he was not aware of the former CIA man's current whereabouts.
The U.S. Consulate declined to comment on the case.
Douglas McNabb, a Houston lawyer who specializes in extradition, said it would not be difficult for the United States to provide justification for its request. “This guy came out and said, 'I did it,''' he said. “His best defense would probably be that this is a political case instead of a criminal one.''
Snowden, who said he had left his girlfriend in Hawaii without telling her where he was going, said he knew the risk he was taking, but thought the publicity his revelations had garnered in the past few days had made it worth it.
“My primary fear is that they will come after my family, my friends, my partner. Anyone I have a relationship with,'' he said. “I will have to live with that for the rest of my life. I am not going to be able to communicate with them. They [the authorities] will act aggressively against anyone who has known me. That keeps me up at night.''
In the video interview, the bespectacled, lightly bearded Snowden looked relaxed. He said he was ultimately hoping that Iceland, which values internet freedom, might grant him asylum.

You May Like

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
June 11, 2013 3:53 AM
What a pity if nations or governments can not help doubting nationals and searching for their privacy! Exceeding grobalization and immigration seem one of the reasons why such a suspition to citizens is caused by authorities. Now new immigration laws are being argued in US. I agree it may be time for US to rethink its free immigration policy.

by: LoNg from: USA
June 10, 2013 9:57 AM
This guy already working for terrorist and tried to sold out America. No matter what we were in war with terrorism our troops sacrificed
Their life for country we suppose to use any way to win this war to protect America safe. This is just tracking the phone...NO big deal at all, if we were good citizen and nothing wrong why worry so much?????????? Just only peoples working for terrorist or do things wrong worry for this matter. Terrorist may around us or around our neighbor even our co-worker like this guy (Edward snowden) who know? Are we wanted to tracking them out of this country???????? Be calm down and let people you were vote for, do the job and nowhere on the world respect for human than this country. Don't abuse this Freedom like this guy.
In Response

by: Robert Tremain from: CA
June 10, 2013 5:17 PM
He is a hero, exposing the Obamanation as comparible to Russia and China

Constitution be damned
Your rights be damned

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs