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 thingsā€¦ 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 544.

    "Five of the men took a bomb, knives and sawn-off shotguns to the rally.
    But the plotters arrived after the EDL event - held last June in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire - had ended.
    They were caught by chance after their car was stopped and found to have no insurance"

    Surveillance sometimes works then. Would have been a hell of a premium for carrying that lot anyway wouldnt it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 543.

    The government got our data through a back door into private companies, which have been collecting our data for years. The government then took our data and sealed off our access to it.

    We let private cos. do this because we didn't know better. Well, now we know better.

    Who would have thought that it would take private cos.' giving our data to our own govt. that would cause a rebellion?

  • rate this

    Comment number 542.

    If you look closer to home and see what's been going on in Jersey with Sure Mobile (the worlds smallest mobile provider owned by the worlds largest software security firm: Cable and Wireless) and Airtel Vodaphone (yes it's just one company in Jersey!) you might get an idea of what's instore! http://w43w.com/no-anonymity-like-jersey/

  • rate this

    Comment number 541.

    The security services cannot possibly stop every attack. The fact that they collect this information helps prevent many serious attacks. How many attacks on the scale of 7/7 have we seen since 7/7? None. The same people complaining about 'Big Brother' are the same people who will complain if people get killed in a terrorist attack. Western Governments are damned if they do and damned if they don't

  • rate this

    Comment number 540.

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

    Well Gareth Williams, working for GCHQ then being found dead, locked inside a holdall was definitely a bit weird.

    Suppose that makes me a conspiracy nut ;-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 539.

    So the US government can hack into my computers and (probably illegally in the UK) monitor my calls without a UK Court Order. I assume that I can reciprocate?

  • rate this

    Comment number 538.

    If this is being done in 'our name', then we must know about it !

  • rate this

    Comment number 537.

    I'd rather die on my feet then live on my knees - Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 536.

    "Those who have done no wrong, have nothing to fear". The problem with that saying is that those who define what is "wrong" cannot be relied upon to always be right, both now and in the future. The Nazi's in Germany could well have used the same line for people who have the "wrong" way of life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 535.

    I wonder if the CIA monitor HYS posts?
    If they do I might find the brakes on my car mysteriously stop working one day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 534.

    Ed Snowden should receive a medal and protection from the inevitable action from the US. Thank God I am not American. Thank God the EU protects our civil and human rights.

  • rate this

    Comment number 533.

    I promise you; even willing to bet my life on it, this is how world war III was provoked, This is how it began and its sad to say, If they wouldn't have been collecting info initially there wouldn't be any to leak.I curse the day Obama went into power.Love is the way to save yourself rather than waiting on the government to do it.Realize the only worry for them is how many 00's are on that check.

  • rate this

    Comment number 532.

    Wow... the freedom of this cage the government has provided for me sure isn't what I call 'Liberty'...

    We went to Iraq and Afghanistan for oil and opium, and CREATED these enemies.

    Was it in the name of the people? Our governments say it was, but we know differently... it is the elite that are trying to control us that are the terrorists.

  • rate this

    Comment number 531.

    Hong Kong, China, land of free speech? Suuuure.

    Now that all people whining about this here on BBC HYS are logged and monitored, the spooks can sit back and laugh, you just did their job for them!

  • rate this

    Comment number 530.

    Hey, spook central. I accidentally deleted a chapter for my latest book on fly fishing. Naturally I have no local backup of it. Can you send me your latest copy? Email is fine. You have my details.

  • rate this

    Comment number 529.

    Maybe its time for the world to look at Europe to provide an alternate system. I am sure many would agree it is time. Congratulations Edward Snowden

  • rate this

    Comment number 528.

    463. @Man in London is right. More information does not protect us from terrorists as so many were already known to the authorities who failed to stop attrocities. The relevant information just becomes less obvious when you have more information. Most terrorists are apprehended by old fashioned targetted investigation, not by spying on everone, which is not only morally wrong, but ineffective.

  • rate this

    Comment number 527.

    I think it's time we cut our ties with that tyrannic police state

  • rate this

    Comment number 526.

    347.Man from the Midlands "surveillance is necessary so we can track down people like terrorists and organised criminals."

    Yes, we are constantly told that. But how few terrorist eggs does the gigantic hammer crack in real terms? How did we get into this state? Was it our warmongering foreign policies? Increasingly it appears that 'monitoring terrorism' is a small part of this Orwellian dystopia.

  • rate this

    Comment number 525.

    Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and others have been collecting and storing information on users for years. It comes as no surprise that various governments have chosen to look at the data, they would be failing in their duty to the public if they did not. Edward Snowdon's failure to abide by the USA version of Great Britain's Official Secrets Act is disgraceful and inexcusable.


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