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 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.


More on This Story

Related Stories


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 1404.

    When you sign an NDA (with a company or CIA) your are not supposed to go public (unless you do it on purpose) ! Goverments have been snooping on people since 80s
    Disclosing something already public in such a way is not very smart ! You could be a hero in a different way

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • rate this

    Comment number 1403.

    Is this why they have been desperately trying to get the 'Snoopers Charter' through again

    Is this why Theresa May wants the UK to leave the ECHR.

    Is the Data Protection Act one of the powers that DC wants repatriate

  • rate this

    Comment number 1402.

    He is clever to choose Hong Kong. He is right about Hong Kong and sure did his homework. Hong kong is well known as a melting pot of western and eastern culture. It's now a melting pot of two kind of govt too.

    The best thing in Hong Kong other than any other city is the irony and contrast, the co-existing of two polarity, the tension between these 2 system working in full force. ........

  • rate this

    Comment number 1401.

    It will be interesting to see how lon this guy lives. It is time for the CIA to demonstrate why they deserved to win the cold war.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1400.

    1398 We are a nation of laws and we expect them to be enforced. This is not Europe where they pass zillions of laws that everyone ignores...like not collecting taxes in Greece. Anyone been to your local market to inspect EU regulations on the curvature of bananas lately? Snowden broke the law, a very important one. He knew he was doing it and he knows he'll pay...unless terrorists kidnap him first

  • rate this

    Comment number 1399.

    Did anyone think that they were not spying on us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1398.

    Cell phones tracking is a common occurrence.. If the story about tracking and killing terrorist cells is true, it is a wildly successful new toy.
    Snowden is merely stating the obvious, how can he be a threat to an already successful campaign, which i doubt will change.
    Still, i feel burdened by the societal paranoia created by over the top security. Just when did the US. become so thin skinned?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1397.

    I've listened to an informed debate on PBS from people who actually know what they are talking about and as an American I'm satisfied that my rights and privacy are being protected by a court and Congressional oversight and that the programs revealed were debated in Congress and are legal.Also Snowden revealing what he did was very damaging.He may be kidnapped by America's enemies, he'll be hunted

  • rate this

    Comment number 1396.

    well let's just thank God we have the freedom of expression, helping people voice their concerns, this freedom is so precious to us that we fight people who don't allow such freedoms in their countries.

    or was it the other way around.

    Doesn't really matter because the "powers we have freely chosen!" to hand over our power to, can simply ignore what we say as long as they obey the lobbyists.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1395.

    Under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendment Act the American government, in connection with any government it see's fit they can just walk into any data centre based in the US or within US Territories. This was highlighted in a paper back earlier this year, and it kind of went under the radar.


  • rate this

    Comment number 1394.

    Many posters here are calling what Edward Snowden did "treason" or "betrayal", but why on earth do we use such politicians' weasel words when a *person* decides that they don't want to be on the same side as a nation of *corporations*?

  • Comment number 1393.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 1392.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1391.

    China gets another feather in it's hat and the US is dog got mad about it, for sure.

    He is in China for protection and to be safe from the US drones, that is priceless in any language.

    And the US can keep Chen and his family there, they will be forgotten.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1390.

    Mr Snowden whistleblew during the HYS on the eurovision song contest , but got moderated for being off topic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1389.

    Don't worry be happy! Remember its not how you feel but how you look that matters.

    Tip....the world is wonderful especially when you disconnect all technology. Nothing really that fab about the news...its always over, and never good...wouldn't sell anything otherwise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1388.

    Whistle blowers are needed - the government will lie whenever it does anything it knows is wrong. Misrepsresentation is commonplace. Haugue says the law hasn't been broken - that doesn't say nothing wrong has been done, only that the tightest letter of the law interpretation (think tax dodgers) can OK what the UK has done

  • rate this

    Comment number 1387.

    1379. Sweet FA
    I believe it says that our governments actions in our name based on misinformation can sometimes ignite extremist views, they aren't doing this to protect us, I believe they do it to control, what would really save lives would be a "war on obesity", but there's less of a control and compliance value in that. With the spy thing,seems they are cutting off the head to cure the headache

  • rate this

    Comment number 1386.

    1383.Dr Bob Matthews
    I think you've got that totally wrong. The British only scan the Americans emails, and the Americans only scan the British emails. Thats totally legal it seems, nobody is scanning their own countrys emails. Of course, none of this information is shared is it? So our Politicians can say there's no law breaking is there?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1385.

    @1379. Sweet FA
    All i'm saying is the threat is real and someone has to try and protect us. More transparency would help.
    and all we are saying is that the electorate needs to decide exactly in what way they are protected, and what is and isn't taking protection too far.

    history is full of examples where governments furthered their own nefarious aims under the guise of security


Page 1 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.