CRF Blog

NSA “Whistleblower” Reveals Own Identity and Other Updates

by Damon Huss

Several days ago, I wrote on this blog that the person who leaked documents to The Guardian related to the Verizon court-order story was “as-yet un-named.” Today, The Guardian has disclosed his identity, at his own request, and his name is Edward Snowden.

Snowden is also the source of a story about PRISM, another secret government digital-surveillance program, which is a story that broke last Thursday in both The Guardian and the Washington Post. As Ben and Emily Dreyfuss describe in What is the NSA’s PRISM Program? (FAQ) at CNET, “PRISM stands for ‘Planning Tool for Resource Integration, Synchronization, and Management,’ and is a ‘data tool’ designed to collect and process ‘foreign intelligence’ that passes through American servers. It has now been acknowledged by the Obama administration.” The “servers” mentioned include Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL, Facebook, Google, Apple, PalTalk, YouTube, and Skype.

Who, then, is Edward Snowden? According to today’s article in The Guardian by Glenn Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill, and Laura Poitras:

The individual responsible for one of the most significant leaks in US political history is Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden has been working at the National Security Agency for the last four years as an employee of various outside contractors, including Booz Allen and Dell.

The Guardian, after several days of interviews, is revealing his identity at his request. From the moment he decided to disclose numerous top-secret documents to the public, he was determined not to opt for the protection of anonymity. “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” he said.

Snowden will go down in history as one of America’s most consequential whistleblowers, alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning. He is responsible for handing over material from one of the world’s most secretive organisations – the NSA.

In a note accompanying the first set of documents he provided, he wrote: “I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions,” but “I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant.” [more]

In answering a question on Friday about the reports about the leaked documents relating to the NSA-surveillance programs, President Obama said:

I think it’s important for everybody to understand, and I think the American people understand, that there are some trade-offs involved. You know, I came in with a health skepticism about these programs. My team evaluated them. We scrubbed them thoroughly. We actually expanded some of the oversight, increased some of the safeguards. But my assessment and my team’s assessment was that they help us prevent terrorist attacks. And the modest encroachments on privacy that are involved in getting phone numbers or duration without a name attached and not looking at content — that on, you know, net, it was worth us doing. [more]