Edward Snowden was NSA Prism leak source - Guardian


Ed Snowden explains why he became a whistleblower (Video courtesy of The Guardian, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras)

Related Stories

A former CIA technical worker has been identified by the UK's Guardian newspaper as the source of leaks about US surveillance programmes.

Edward Snowden, 29, is described by the paper as an ex-CIA technical assistant, currently employed by defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton.

The Guardian said his identity was being revealed at his own request.

The recent revelations are that US agencies gathered millions of phone records and monitored internet data.

A spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said the matter had now been referred to the Department of Justice as a criminal matter.

The Guardian quotes Mr Snowden as saying he flew to Hong Kong on 20 May, where he holed himself up in a hotel.

Start Quote

I don't want to live in a society that does these sort of things”

End Quote

He told the paper that the extent of US surveillance was "horrifying", adding: "We can plant bugs in machines. Once you go on the network, I can identify your machine. You will never be safe whatever protections you put in place."

He added: "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."

Mr Snowden said he did not believe he had committed a crime: "We have seen enough criminality on the part of government. It is hypocritical to make this allegation against me."

Asked what he thought would happen to him, he replied: "Nothing good."

Mr Snowden said he accepted he could end up in jail. "If they want to get you, over time they will," he said.

He said he also feared the US authorities would "act aggressively against anyone who has known me. That keeps me up at night".

Mr Snowden said he had gone to Hong Kong because of its "strong tradition of free speech".

US media response

A USA Today editorial accepts that "the primary result of Snowden's actions is a plus. He has forced a public debate on the sweepingly invasive programs that should have taken place before they were created". But, it goes on, "pure motives and laudable effects don't alter the fact that he broke the law".

An editorial in the Chicago Tribune argues that "some new restrictions" in the US intelligence gathering programme may be in order, adding: "If the government is looking for, say, calls between the United States and terrorists in Pakistan or Yemen, why can't it simply demand records of calls to certain foreign countries. Is there no way to narrow the search to leave most Americans out of it?"

Robert O'Harrow in the Washington Post writes that the growing reliance on contractors in US intelligence gathering "reflects a massive shift toward outsourcing over the past 15 years, in part because of cutbacks in the government agencies". He argues that this "has dramatically increased the risk of waste and contracting abuses... but given the threat of terrorism and the national security mandates from Congress, the intelligence community had little choice".

Hong Kong signed an extradition treaty with the US shortly before the territory returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.

However, Beijing can block any extradition if it believes it affects national defence or foreign policy issues.

Mr Snowden has expressed an interest in seeking asylum in Iceland.

However, Hong Kong's South China Morning Post quoted Iceland's ambassador to China as saying that "according to Icelandic law a person can only submit such an application once he/she is in Iceland".

'Core values'

In a statement, Booz Allen Hamilton confirmed Mr Snowden had been an employee for less than three months.

"If accurate, this action represents a grave violation of the code of conduct and core values of our firm," the statement said.

The first of the leaks came out on Wednesday night, when the Guardian reported a US secret court had ordered phone company Verizon to hand over to the National Security Agency (NSA) millions of records on telephone call "metadata".

The metadata include the numbers of both phones on a call, its duration, time, date and location (for mobiles, determined by which mobile signal towers relayed the call or text).

That report was followed by revelations in both the Washington Post and Guardian that the NSA tapped directly into the servers of nine internet firms including Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo to track online communication in a programme known as Prism.

Thomas Drake, ex-NSA executive, on US state surveillance

All the internet companies deny giving the US government access to their servers.

Prism is said to give the NSA and FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) access to emails, web chats and other communications directly from the servers of major US internet companies.

The data are used to track foreign nationals suspected of terrorism or spying. The NSA is also collecting the telephone records of American customers, but not recording the content of their calls.


On Saturday, US director of national intelligence James Clapper called the leaks "literally gut-wrenching".

"I hope we're able to track down whoever's doing this, because it is extremely damaging to, and it affects the safety and security of this country," he told NBC News on Saturday.

How surveillance came to light

  • 5 June: The Guardian reports that the National Security Agency (NSA) is collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon under a top secret court order
  • 6 June: The Guardian and The Washington Post report that the NSA and the FBI are tapping into US Internet companies to track online communication in a programme known as Prism
  • 7 June: The Guardian reports President Obama has asked intelligence agencies to draw up a list of potential overseas targets for US cyber-attacks
  • 7 June: President Obama defends the programmes, saying they are closely overseen by Congress and the courts
  • 8 June: US director of national intelligence James Clapper calls the leaks "literally gut-wrenching"
  • 9 June: The Guardian names former CIA technical worker Edward Snowden as the source of the leaks

Prism was reportedly established in 2007 in order to provide in-depth surveillance on live communications and stored information on foreigners overseas.

The NSA has filed a criminal report with the US Justice Department over the leaks.

The content of phone conversations - what people say to each other when they are on the phone - is protected by the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution, which forbids unreasonable searches.

However, information shared with a third party, such as phone companies, is not out of bounds.

That means that data about phone calls - such as their timing and duration - can be scooped up by government officials.

Mr Clapper's office issued a statement on Saturday, saying all the information gathered under Prism was obtained with the approval of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court (Fisa).

Prism was authorised under changes to US surveillance laws passed under President George W Bush and renewed last year under Barack Obama.

On Friday, Mr Obama defended the surveillance programmes as a "modest encroachment" on privacy, necessary to protect the US from terrorist attacks.

"Nobody is listening to your telephone calls. That's not what this program is about," he said, emphasising that the programmes were authorised by Congress.


More on This Story

Related Stories


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    China monitoring people overseas = "Hacking"
    USA monitoring people overseas = "Tapping"

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    Well done Mr. Snowden! I will defend you to the death.

    Now we need to hear who really runs our government.

    More whistle blowers please.

    Then a true democratic vote which will give us all representation in governments worldwide.

    Put an end to first-past-the-post.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    My faith in humanity is restored...

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    Why do I feel that if we (& USA) stopped meddling in other nations affairs then there would be no need for this sort of thing?

    It seems our national safety & security continues to be compromised exactly because of ill thought out interventions abroad by our elected "leaders".

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    For anyone wondering what's so bad about the Government monitoring your messages, here's a real-life example from user-uploaded news site Reddit about what happens when the Government uses this information:


    Don't kid yourselves that our Government is immune from corruption, or are perfect.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    There is no such thing as privacy - never has been and never will be. Before it was people intercepting letters, now it's streams of data. All that will happen is the gov will deploy something else in place of this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Snowden isn't leaking this information because of some notion of public interest and self sacrifice. He is doing as a shameless act of self promotion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    "all the information gathered under Prism was obtained with the approval of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court (Fisa). "

    Sorry, I don't remember voting for that in the last British general election.

    So why should that statement make me feel better?

    Are we not now British citizens or have we become the subjects of the American Empire?

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Imagine how the Nazis would have used such information had the technology been available in the 1930s. That is the danger of governments collecting this kind of information. We have no idea of how it could be used by future administrations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    This man has damaged our intelligence community. Next time a bomb goes off in a tube station, or a nutcase beheads someone in the street, ask yourself if what he has done really was a good idea. I think not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Frightening. So it is eventually confimed that the "land of the free" is actually one of the most ultra-fascist police states in the whole of human existence. And now you'll get the idiot right-wing galoot-side of Americans demanding his summary execution, just like they did for Bradley manning when he exposed the truth about the horrors of the American facade.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    This report, as well as the one on continuing British confusion about the many advantages for the UK from greater integration with other societies (in other words, relaxing a bit about the whole "migrant alert!" xenophobia), falls within the category of Siege Mentality. You cannot learn much about others by keeping away from them. The cost of blundering paranoia is Huge. Smarter intel very needed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    I hate feeling like this. On the one hand, I love my native country of the USA. On the other, I am a strong believer in civil liberties and privacy and I detest manipulating the law to suit political agendas. The longer I live overseas, the more I begin to suspect my love for America is more an affection for the idea than the reality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    "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." so he flies to China? Talk about out of the frying pan and into the fire!

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    When Hague said 'there is nothing to fear from GCHQ' that's the exact point at which I did start being concerned by all of this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    8.mikewow "Anyone still want to bash the Occupy movement?"

    Yes me please. The haters of prosperity movement has nothing to do this story I'm happy to continue to bash them whilst simultaneously disapproving of this story.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    How long until Snowden is 'discovered' to have 20 kilos of heroin in his basement or a laundry list of women with previously-unknown sexual assault allegations against him?

    The fact that anyone would have the balls to leak this data after the Assange persecution brings fresh hope to us as a species.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Things are about to change, and for once FOR THE BETTER. Ed Snowdon has made a tough but right decision. This goes on far too much. And shadowy agencies are dictated what to do. Then theres Hague, stating it doesnt happen here. What utter nonsense. This goes on in the UK and has done for decades.
    Why has DC, Balls and Osbourne ALL attended the Bilderberg meeting?? One puppet master all parties

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Isn't the US Government motto nothing to hide nothing to fear ?

    So why do they fear having their own snooper practices aired in public and do the US government use this information to give US companies an economic advantage ?

    Orwell wasn't a paranoid loon, he was years ahead of his time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    I umm might have to delete my web history .... Then destroy my PC and move to Cuba


Page 69 of 71


More US & Canada stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.