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)

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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.

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

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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.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 524.

    To quote Mr. Snowden: "Much of what I saw in Geneva really disillusioned me about how my government functions and what its impact is in the world. I realised that I was part of something that was doing far more harm than good."
    Please comment Mr. Obama.

  • rate this

    Comment number 523.

    This man should be honoured for acting in the true sense of Democracy

  • rate this

    Comment number 522.

    Most 'Terror Plots' foiled in the US were set up by the FBI.

    Data was used to target individuals who had committed no crime and only showed an opinion. Such as leaving comments in news stories like this or tweeting a point of view, to be then profiled as an 'enemy of the state.


  • rate this

    Comment number 521.

    Good luck to this Snowden character living in China.
    China has a need for computer experts to help man their internet hacking services - the biggest State sponsored internet and telephone snooping organisation in the World so I understand.

  • rate this

    Comment number 520.

    @Sunday Morning Dandruff

    A good way to make a population relinquish their rights is to make them feel constantly at war. Looks it has worked on you...

    The situations you cite are not even remotely comparable.
    Intelligence and counter intelligence in WWII involved boots on the ground, not the complete observation of the whole UK population. (What do you think Churchill would think of that?!)

  • rate this

    Comment number 519.

    These security agencies have a daunting job keeping us all safe. When you feel like you are having your privacy imposed, you are very quick to point the finger at those in power.

    When there is another attack, and there will be, and these security agencies say "We just didn't have any/enough information about it", don't blame them, as its you who they are protecting that tied their hands.

  • rate this

    Comment number 518.

    OK, the reality is:
    - (if true) Ed Snowden broke the law and therefore should go to jail (as should the wikileaks people)
    - To the US/UK governments - please continue to monitor all web traffic and do everything you can to prevent further terrorist attacks, even if it means that you know that I sometimes call my family and friends

    Stay safe, stop the leaks!

  • rate this

    Comment number 517.

    It's funny how governments are using this stuff for 'evil' sinister purposes, yet when some big plot gets foiled there's nothing but relief expressed.

    Do any one of you conspiracy nuts have ANY evidence that a law-abiding person has been scooped up and 'disappeared'?

    We elect governments to protect us. This sort of stuff is kept secret so that terrorists and criminals don't know about it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 516.

    497. David
    Monitoring may invade privacy but is also used to to prevent terrorism. We can't have it both ways.

    We just have to ensure the people that monitor us are not the bad guys
    a) True, but they could easily be more selective in who they target
    b) This would be the equivalent of HMG working with, say, G4S as an outsourced supplier. How secure would that make me feel? Probably not very

  • rate this

    Comment number 515.

    William Hague would have nothing to fear if I sat in and listened to his family evening meal but would that mean I should be able to do it. Of course not. The Government are keen to tell us that terrorism should not change our daily lives but then they go about affecting our lives and rights on a global scale. No doubt most Brits won't complain but the American public will sort this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 514.

    If Hague, May, Cameron and others knew about Prism spying on British citizens, they should all be facing charges for conspiracy against the British people. This is a criminal act, the NSA is not accountable to the British people, our courts or government. Any of our elected who knew about this are traitors to the people and a national security threat themselves. They should be in cells right now!

  • rate this

    Comment number 513.

    Here's a prediction. Within a week of the "extra protection" that is to be given to muslim properties in the UK, those being "protected" will kick off, because they won't like police officers with lapel badge video cameras recording their every move. The difference is that the police will immediately withdraw from the special people who must never be offended.

  • rate this

    Comment number 512.

    Thank you to all you brave people who speak out - Assange - Manning - Edward Snowdon - Hammond - Swartz - who oppose the loss of privacy, frr speech, and transparent democracy.

    It is good that the public are at last waking up to what is being done in their name. We need to be vigilant to protect our human right. The Governments must remember they are Public Servants - we are private citizens.

  • rate this

    Comment number 511.

    So by the logic, "if you're not doing anything wrong then you shouldn't have anything to hide".

    If this is true, I expect we'll shortly see the government and security services de-classifying everything.

    How long are we going to put up with the lies and hypocrisy?

  • Comment number 510.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 509.

    well done this chap

    what will we call this affair

    prismgate or intrusiongate

    the comments from the various goverments must be named

    the gates of hypocracy

  • rate this

    Comment number 508.

    I feel sorry for this young man because whatever happens now,his life is probably ruined one way or another and personally, I don't think he deserves that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 507.

    You cant relinquish freedom for security. We will surely lose both if we do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 506.

    Could not agree more with 487

  • rate this

    Comment number 505.

    Our superior intelligence gathering helped us win WW2. The real heroes are those that took part in those efforts and never revealed their involvement.

    In a conflict knowing what your opponent going to do and being able to plan without them knowing is a huge strategic advantage.
    It is vital that we have a Government empowered with data and not compromised by leaks. Data is power - ask Google.


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