Edward Snowden, who has worked at the National Security Agency for the past four years in Hawaii, told The Guardian newspaper about clandestine surveillance programs that the government is conducting with its own citizens as the targets
Edward Snowden, who has worked at the National Security Agency for the past four years in Hawaii, speaking during an interview with The Guardian newspaper at an undisclosed location in Hong Kong, June 6, 2013.

Reuters- WASHINGTON — An ex-CIA employee working as a contractor at the U.S. National Security Agency in Hawaii 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 Guardiannewspaper, 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.

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12 COMMENTS

  1. I think that what Edward Snowden has done up to now is to force our government into more transparency about their illegal spying on Americam citizens.no due process and dis respecting our constitution.hopefully whistleblowers in other repressive regimes will come forward about their own governments'abuses.more power to Edward snowden and manning.

  2. BED indicates premeditation & planned espionage, that KHON 2's report seems to confirm.
    Report titled, "Whistleblower who leaked sensitive US information lived in Hawaii"
    Excerpt;
    ".. Neighbors say they are also shocked, but noticed the couple taking extreme measures to maintain privacy like keeping all windows closed and even blocking the view into their garage from floor to ceiling.
    “Everything was completely blocked like a wall of boxes,” neighbor Carolyn Tijing said. " http://www.khon2.com/2013/06/09/whistleblower-who

  3. @Blue Eyed Devil- hey Blue,how you? well,are you thinking that maybe Snowden is a mole planted by the Chicom to do espionage and create havoc in US Intelligence?or that he was recruited by them earlier on?anything is possible.and is snowden's history going to hold up?was snowden set up to do what he is doing now?and how did he get such extraordinary access to classified information unless it was part of a larger scheme? in 2003,without a HS diploma he joins the army.he begins a training program to become a Special Forces soldier(he's 19 yrs. old?).snowden breaks both legs in a training exercise and is discharged from the army.still in the same year,he gets a job as a security guard at an NSA facility at univ. of Maryland.and then still in 2003(?!) he shifts jobs.he is now CIA working in IT.in 2007 he goes to Geneva,Switzerland where the CIA gives him diplomatic cover and he's 23 yrs. old.in 2009 snowden leaves the CIA,why? because he is disillusioned.and then goes to work for a Defense contractor.and still no HS diploma?maybe he has a GED by now!anyway I think the UK Guardian should ask him some more questions.

    • Greetings shaft. A lot of questions here. Also, if PRISM has been around for seven years, how come they couldn't "connect the dots" to the Boston bombers, especially after having been tipped off by the Russians three times?
      They didn't have any problem finding Romney's campaign doners.
      I cant agree with your perception of Manning and Snowden as heros though. As a result of Ellsberg, agents were assassinated. I'm not going to argue the fourth amendment with you, unfortunately we need the means to pursue the jihadis. It's too bad that this administration misuses powers to produce a chilling affect on their political adversaries. From 2008 I thought the petulant man child was jealous of Hugo Chavez. Watch for a movement to abolish the 22 amendment.

  4. I personally feel that Edward snowden is telling the truth and that he is sincere in his concerns over government abuse on the NSA. to me, the NSA is criminal.they have way too much power and information.i think that they are clandensinely involved in making money on wall street by short selling,etc. to make money to fund their activities.they have access to many things in the financial markets.that's one example.are they involved in a "turf war with the CIA?are they making enemies with the JP Morgans/ Goldman sachs cabal??in my opinion,go after NSA with RICO.and about Daniel Ellsberg: he brought sunshine to the Vietnam BS.

  5. it appears that half of the nation's science,technology.engineering and math workforce don't have a college degree which may explain why Snowden found high paying work with out a HS diploma initially and then with a GED.in other words aperson can be hired as a computer system analyst with starting high pay(which is what snowden's skills were and similar job description) and does not require a college degree.this according to Dept. of Labor.

    • Ironic that B.O. spoke about hiring veterans w/experience & education, and his admin. & cabinet knew all these contractors hiring nerds w/o any dedication to the USA or our flag.

      Good work B.O.
      China will pay you well.

  6. on sept.6,1984 congressman ron paul(R-texas) warned the American people of the surveillance state from the floor of congress.and this was during thereagan regime!!

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