The New 'Deep Throat' Emerges

Posted: 6/9/2013 7:58:23 EDT
      

WASHINGTON (AP) — A 29-year-old contractor who claims to have worked at the National Security Agency and the CIA allowed himself to be revealed Sunday as the source of disclosures about the U.S. government's secret surveillance programs, risking prosecution by the U.S. government.

The leaks have reopened the post-Sept. 11 debate about privacy concerns versus heightened measure to protect against terrorist attacks, and led the NSA to ask the Justice Department to conduct a criminal investigation into the leaks.

The Guardian, the first paper to disclose the documents, said it was publishing the identity of Edward Snowden, a former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, at his own request.

"My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them," Snowden told the newspaper.

Stories in The Guardian and The Washington Post published over the last week revealed two surveillance programs, and both published interviews with Snowden on Sunday.

One of them is a phone records monitoring program in which the NSA gathers hundreds of millions of U.S. phone records each day, creating a database through which it can learn whether terror suspects have been in contact with people in the U.S. The Obama administration says the NSA program does not listen to actual conversations.

Separately, an Internet scouring program, code-named PRISM, allows the NSA and FBI to tap directly into nine U.S. Internet companies to gather all Internet usage — audio, video, photographs, emails and searches. The effort is designed to detect suspicious behavior that begins overseas.

Snowden said claims the programs are secure are not true.

"Any analyst at any time can target anyone. Any selector. Anywhere. Where those communications will be picked up depends on the range of those sensor networks and the authority that that analyst is empowered with," Snowden said, in accompanying video on the Guardian's website. "Not all analysts have the power to target anything. But I, sitting at my desk, had the authority to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president if I had a personal email."

He told the Post that he would "ask for asylum from any countries that believe in free speech and oppose the victimization of global privacy" in an interview from Hong Kong, where he is staying.

"I'm not going to hide," Snowden told the Post. "Allowing the U.S. government to intimidate its people with threats of retaliation for revealing wrongdoing is contrary to the public interest."

The Post declined to elaborate on its reporting about Snowden.

The spokesman for the Director of National Intelligence said intelligence officials are "currently reviewing the damage that has been done by these recent disclosures," adding that "Any person who has a security clearance knows that he or she has an obligation to protect classified information and abide by the law."

He referred further comment to the Justice Department.

In a statement, Booz Allen confirmed that Snowden "has been an employee of our firm for less than 3 months, assigned to a team in Hawaii." The statement said if the news reports of what he has leaked prove accurate, "this action represents a grave violation of the code of conduct," and the company promised to work closely with authorities on the investigation.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has decried the revelation of the intelligence-gathering programs as reckless and said it has done "huge, grave damage." In recent days, he took the rare step of declassifying some details about them to respond to media reports about counterterrorism techniques employed by the government.

Snowden told The Guardian that he lacked a high school diploma and enlisted in the U.S. Army until he was discharged because of an injury, and later worked as a security guard with the NSA.

He later went to work for the CIA as an information technology employee and by 2007 was stationed in Geneva, Switzerland, where he had access to classified documents.

During that time, he considered going public about the nation's secretive programs but told the newspaper he decided against it, because he did not want to put anyone in danger and he hoped Obama's election would curtail some of the clandestine programs.

He said he was disappointed that Obama did not rein in the surveillance programs.

"Much of what I saw in Geneva really disillusioned me about how my government functions and what its impact is in the world," he told The Guardian. "I realized that I was part of something that was doing far more harm than good."

Snowden left the CIA in 2009 to join a private contractor, and spent last four years at the NSA, as a contractor with consulting giant Booz Allen Hamilton and, before that, Dell.

The Guardian reported that Snowden was working in an NSA office in Hawaii when he copied the last of the documents he planned to disclose and told supervisors that he needed to be away for a few weeks to receive treatment for epilepsy.

He left for Hong Kong on May 20 and has remained there since, according to the newspaper. Snowden is quoted as saying he chose that city because "they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent", and because he believed it was among the spots on the globe that could and would resist the dictates of the U.S. government.

"I feel satisfied that this was all worth it. I have no regrets," Snowden told The Guardian, which said he asked to be identified after several days of interviews.

Snowden could face decades in a U.S. jail for revealing classified information if he is successfully extradited from Hong Kong, said Mark Zaid, a national security lawyer who represents whistleblowers. Hong Kong has an extradition treaty with the United States that took force in 1998, according to the U.S. State Department website.

"If it's a straight leak of classified information, the government could subject him to a 10 or 20 year penalty for each count," with each document leaked considered a separate charge, Zaid said.

Snowden told the newspaper he believes the government could try to charge him with treason under the Espionage Act, but Zaid said that would require the government to prove he had intent to betray the United States, whereas he publicly made it clear he did this to spur debate.

The government could also make an argument that the NSA leaks have aided the enemy — as military prosecutors have claimed against Army Pvt. Bradley Manning, who faces life in prison under military law if convicted for releasing a trove of classified documents through Wikileaks.

"They could say the revelation of the (NSA) programs could instruct people to change tactics," Zaid said. But even under the lesser charges of simply revealing classified information, "you are talking potentially decades in jail, loss of his employment and his security clearance."

Officials said the revelations were dangerous and irresponsible. House intelligence committee member Peter King, R-NY, called for Snowden to be "extradited from Hong Kong immediately...and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," in an interview with The Associated Press Sunday.

"I believe the leaker has done extreme damage to the U.S. and to our intelligence operations," King said, by alerting al-Qaida to U.S. surveillance, and by spooking U.S. service providers who now might fight sharing data in future with the U.S. government, now that the system has been made public.

King added that intelligence and law enforcement professionals he'd spoken to since the news broke were also concerned that Snowden might be taken into custody by Chinese intelligence agents and questioned about CIA and NSA spies and policies.

"To be a whistleblower, there would have to be a pattern of him filing complaints through appropriate channels to his supervisors," said Ambassador John Negroponte, the first director of national intelligence, in an interview with the AP Sunday. "For me, it's just an outright case of betrayal of confidences and a violation of his nondisclosure agreement."

President Barack Obama, Clapper and others have said the programs are authorized by Congress and subject to strict supervision of a secret court.

"It's important to recognize that you can't have 100 percent security and also then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience," Obama said. "We're going to have to make some choices as a society."

Snowden 'Not Afraid,' But May Seek Asylum

The 29-year-old government contractor who turned whistleblower to reveal vast US surveillance programs says he is not afraid, despite the intelligence authorities' threat to hunt him down.

In footage shot by The Guardian newspaper, Edward Snowden said he packed his bags for Hong Kong three weeks ago, leaving behind a "very comfortable life" in Hawaii, a salary of $200,000, a girlfriend, a stable career and a loving family.

"I'm willing to sacrifice all of that because I can't in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, Internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world," Snowden said.

He is behind one of the most significant security breaches in US history, joining the likes of Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning, who released US diplomatic cables and war logs to the WikiLeaks website.

Snowden cited both men as inspiration.

A former technical assistant for the CIA, Snowden worked for four years at the National Security Agency (NSA) as an employee of various outside contractors, including Dell and Booz Allen Hamilton, his current employer.

"My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them," he said.

In the video, posted on the newspaper's website, the bespectacled analyst appeared composed, speaking deliberately as he admitted: "I do not expect to see home again."

"I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong," he said. "I am not afraid, because this is the choice I've made."

But Snowden admitted he was worried about possible retaliation from US authorities, who are seeking a criminal probe into the leaks.

Before the whistleblower's identity was revealed, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has vowed to "track down whoever's doing this" and accused the leaker of causing "huge, grave damage" to US intelligence.

The Guardian said Snowden had mostly remained ensconced in his Hong Kong hotel room since boarding a flight on May 20, stepping outside for only about three times during his entire stay.

Worried about being spied on, he has lined the door of his hotel room with pillows and places a large red hood over his head and laptop when typing passwords so that any hidden cameras can't record them, the newspaper added.

"All my options are bad," Snowden said, with possible extradition proceedings, questioning by Chinese authorities or an extra-legal detention by the CIA hanging over his head.

"Yes, I could be rendered by the CIA. I could have people come after me. Or any of the third-party partners. They work closely with a number of other nations. Or they could pay off the Triads. Any of their agents or assets."

Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China with its own legal system, has an extradition treaty with the United States.

Snowden staked his best hope on possible asylum in Iceland, known as an Internet freedom champion, despite the huge challenges to realizing that goal.

Over many hours of interviews with The Guardian, Snowden only showed emotion when asked about the impact of his decisions on his relatives, many of whom work for the US government.

"The only thing I fear is the harmful effects on my family, who I won't be able to help any more. That's what keeps me up at night," he said, as his eyes filled with tears.

Snowden grew up in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, later moving to Maryland, near the NSA's headquarters at Fort Meade.

A less than stellar student, he studied computing at a Maryland community college to get the necessary credits to obtain a high school diploma, but never finished the course.

In 2003, he joined the US Army and began training with the Special Forces. But he was discharged after breaking both his legs in a training accident.

His first job with the NSA was as a security guard for one of the agency's secret facilities at the University of Maryland. He then worked on IT security at the CIA.

Despite his lack of formal qualifications, his computer wizardry allowed him to quickly rise through intelligence ranks. By 2007, he was given a CIA post with diplomatic cover in Geneva.

Snowden left the CIA in 2009 to work for a private contractor that gave him an assignment at an NSA facility on a military base in Japan.

Other Famous Leakers in Recent History

Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old American intelligence analyst, has revealed himself as the source who disclosed the U.S. government's secret phone and Internet surveillance programs. Some other famous leakers in recent history:

DANIEL ELLSBERG

A military analyst, he passed the Pentagon Papers — a secret Defense Department study of U.S. involvement in Vietnam — on to The New York Times and other newspapers in 1971.

W. MARK FELT

An associate director at the FBI, he was Deep Throat, the source who gave information about Watergate to The Washington Post in the 1970s. He unmasked himself in 2005.

MORDECHAI VANUNU

He was an Israeli nuclear technician in 1986 when he revealed Israel's nuclear weapons program. He served 18 years in prison.

FREDERIC WHITEHURST

Beginning in 1992, the FBI agent exposed shoddy work and inaccurate testimony from the bureau's crime lab.

JEFFREY WIGAND

A Brown & Williamson tobacco executive, he cooperated with CBS' "60 Minutes" and the Food and Drug Administration in the 1990s in exposing cigarette manufacturers' practices.

BRADLEY MANNING

The U.S. Army private gave a trove of classified military and diplomatic material to WikiLeaks. His court-martial is underway at Fort Meade, Md.

5 Things to Know About Surveillance Program

WASHINGTON (AP) — Edward Snowden identified himself Sunday as a principal source behind revelations about the National Security Agency's sweeping phone and Internet surveillance programs. Five things to know about the disclosures:

— THE PROGRAMS: The NSA has been collecting the phone records of hundreds of millions of Americans each day, creating a database through which it can learn whether terror suspects have been in contact with people in the U.S. While the NSA program does not listen to actual conversations, the revelation of the program reopened the post-Sept. 11 debate about privacy concerns versus heightened measures to protect against terrorist attacks. Separately, an Internet scouring program, code-named PRISM, allows the NSA and FBI to tap directly into nine U.S. Internet companies to gather all Internet usage — audio, video, photographs, emails and searches. The effort is designed to detect suspicious behavior that begins overseas.

— THE LEAKER: A 29-year-old high school dropout who worked for consulting giant Booz Allen Hamilton has claimed responsibility for disclosing the programs to The Guardian and The Washington Post. Snowden told The Guardian that he enlisted in the Army, was dismissed after breaking both legs during a training exercise and later got a job as a security guard at a covert intelligence facility in Maryland. He says he later joined the CIA and was posted under diplomatic cover in Geneva, Switzerland. He later worked for consulting companies and claims he spent four years working as a contractor with the NSA. In a statement, Booz Allen Hamilton said he has worked for them less than three months.

— THE REASON: In interviews with The Guardian and the Washington Post, Snowden said he felt compelled to disclose the program because he wanted "to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them." Snowden says he also was disillusioned with CIA tactics to recruit spies in Geneva and was disappointed President Barack Obama did not do more to curtail surveillance programs after his 2008 election.

— THE REACTION: The government's response was fierce. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said the disclosures were "gut-wrenching to see this happen because of the huge, grave damage it does to our intelligence capabilities" and asked the Justice Department to investigate. Rep. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said the journalists who reported on the programs don't "have a clue how this thing works; neither did the person who released just enough information to literally be dangerous." Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she wanted to see the leaker prosecuted. Rep. Peter King, a Republican on the intelligence panel, called for Snowden to be "extradited from Hong Kong immediately." John Negroponte, a former director of national intelligence, called it "an outright case of betrayal of confidences and a violation of his nondisclosure agreement." Yet some also said Snowden's revelations should spark a debate about the secret programs and civil liberties. "I am not happy that we've had leaks and these leaks are concerning, but I think it's an opportunity now to have a discussion about the limits of surveillance, how we create transparency, and above all, how we protect Americans' privacy," said Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo.

— THE CONSEQUENCES: The NSA has asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation, and Snowden could face decades in prison if convicted on espionage or treason charges. The Obama administration has been particularly aggressive in prosecuting those who disclose classified information. Snowden has fled to Hong Kong, a former British colony that is now a semi-autonomous region of China. Snowden says he chose the city because he expects leaders could resist pressure from the U.S. government. Snowden also says he would "ask for asylum from any countries that believe in free speech and oppose the victimization of global privacy." Hong Kong has an extradition treaty with the United States that took force in 1998, according to the U.S. State Department website.

Ex-CIA Agent: No Way We'd Get Leaker From China

ROBERT BAER, FORMER CIA AGENT: We'll never get him from China, there's not a chance. He'll disappear there; he won't be able to get anywhere else. But if in fact the Chinese had a hand in this -- I just can't believe the T.V. interview was done there in Hong Kong without some sort of knowledge of the Chinese. They're not about to send him to the United States, and the CIA is not going to render him, as he said in the tape. They're not going to try to grab him there, it's just not going to happen.

Video: Rep. Ellison Says Congress Knew Nothing

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You are a member of Congress. The president said on Friday that every member of Congress has access to information. Can you just first start out by explaining what a member of Congress who is not on the committee knows about this program or can know about this program?

REP. KEITH ELLISON (D-MN): I would say almost nothing. The reality is you can't bring your staff in there, so we are moving around Capitol Hill at lightning speed, nearly every member of Congress is. If you can't get any staff support, that means you've got to go into that room, you've got to sit there and pore through documents over the course of hours.

Twitter Reacts to NSA Spying

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