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 984.

    I wonder how long it will be before HM Govt is issuing a "sincere" apology to go alongside the ones from Bloody Sunday, Hillsborough, Mau-Mau etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 983.

    I find it interesting that BBC considers it appropriate to put the words "defending liberty" in quotes.

    It says a lot about the BBC, your site since the Blair years having become almost an official government outlet rather than a genuine news source.

    He is indeed defending liberty, as will be obvious to all clear-thing people.

    And BBC really has sunk very low.

  • rate this

    Comment number 982.

    At 16yrs old i was nearly blown up by an IRA bomb in Park street Bristol and another in Park row have i lived the last 39yrs in fear?? No i haven't do i fear terrorists no matter which? NO i do not do i want my governBENT to have access to my phone call or internet history? Again NO I DO NOT.
    Do i fear my governBENT and its progression towards a nanny state? YES i most certainly do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 981.

    America where pervert J.Edgar Hoover still has his name on the FBI bldg. McCarthy era where a paranoid wacko ran ramrod over talented people rooting out communism. Now this - who is really surprised. Looking at our society, most citizens won't know about this until it is spoken by some non-talented, unfunny, overrated late night comedian.

    Turn off tv news, turn off computer....all is well.

  • Comment number 980.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 979.

    @976. Man from the Midlands

    That was a long time ago under a different set of circumstances.
    We'll have to wait for the Foreign Secretary's statement to get the full facts, but sometimes we just have to trust the politicians to act in the national interest.
    And, hand on heart, do you trust them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 978.

    Communications companies should locate to international waters and route traffic via satellite directly to customers. That way none of their infrastructure would be within national boundaries so they couldn't be censored or subpoenad to hand over customer details.
    The use of pin-point signalling would also prevent government agencies from intercepting signals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 977.

    On the wall in the lobby of the CIA it says "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

    Unfortunately governments understand this only too well, and withhold the truth in their attempts to manipulate the citizens who employ them into letting them do what they want to their gain, not ours.

  • rate this

    Comment number 976.

    962. koolkarmauk

    "The same commitee that gave Blair the green light to illegally invade Iraq based on dodgy intelligence..."

    That was a long time ago under a different set of circumstances.

    966. BadlyPackedKebab

    We'll have to wait for the Foreign Secretary's statement to get the full facts, but sometimes we just have to trust the politicians to act in the national interest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 975.

    So he is in HK now. And he wants to get asylum in Iceland. This "maverick" surely knows how to choose places to live as a soon to be outlaw!

  • rate this

    Comment number 974.

    Considering the personal risks this guy faces he should be applauded. The World needs more people conscience and principles who are prepared to stand up and say 'No !', 'Not in my name !'. In the UK we have enough spineless officials and middle managers and not enough 'heroes'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 973.

    You are IP Address

    IP Address I am not an IP address, I am a free man.

    The Prisoner [2013]

  • rate this

    Comment number 972.

    962"Britain lost WW2 and drew WW1?"

    If your history book says otherwise replace it with one that tells the truth unpleasant as you might find it.

    964"Can I place CCTV in every room in your house?"

    Not necessary.Google, Bing, ebay or whoever knows every topic you search, every site you visit.They know just driving by what TV channels you watch, what's on your computer and cell phone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 971.

    963 mftm
    Usual bullying tactics,Can't you see the government actions of the last decade has undermined their creditability & the very laws & committees you link to,it their job to win it back not mine to give unconditionally
    I think growing up is understanding principals mean a great deal & no amount of abuse will change my mind

  • rate this

    Comment number 970.

    @965. dick
    mmm, I assume the name and comment are missing the cranium link?
    There are a huge number of problems with having a bunch spying on everything everyone every does in the name of 'freedom'. Clearly when it is done without approval it is undemocratic. This power is too much even in the 'right' hands and will be a disaster if it falls to others.

  • rate this

    Comment number 969.

    I expect the Jews in 1930s Germany felt the same, I have nothing to hide so nothing to fear and we all know how that worked out for them....The biggest Threat to World Peace is the American Government and our very own government who blindly help them....

  • rate this

    Comment number 968.

    @955. sieuarlu
    so the US played a secondary, if not tertiary role in WWII, whilst the USSR did all the real fighting. Thanks for clearing that up.

    aid and support do not win you wars. Soldiers in the field do. And those overwhelmingly came from the Red Army, who inflicted 85-90% of the total german war casualties.

    had the yanks opened a second front in 1941 you may have had a point.

  • rate this

    Comment number 967.

    In Labour, public sector senior managers were ignorant and arrogant. I wish that they have learned a lesson from Tesco (food industry) who has been dealing with horse meat scandal so responsibly. They didn’t realise that I wasn’t part of the problem, but their cover-up and bad products would have put millions at risk. I can only wish they are on the public sector cutting list. God save GB.

  • rate this

    Comment number 966.

    949.Man from the Midlands
    'Are you people aware we even have an Intelligence and Security Committee?'

    The committee made of up MPs, an ex MP now Lord and a QC? Are they all squeaky clean as in no skeletons in the closet? All trustworthy, never defrauded anyone or told fibs?

    Dig a bit deeper and it is concerning that some of these have access to top secret stuff......or do they ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 965.

    We have to pay some price for a total freedom. It is absolutely necessary for all nations of the world to keep a strong watch to defend its people from unholy remorseless brutals. Democracy and Freedom don't come free. Why cant we blame all those who carryout bloodshed all over the world ? Just it is becz USA, etc. pompous media take a high posture and hide away when killers go blasting us around.


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