Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former CIA employee who has been working with an intelligence contractor, revealed himself to be the source of reports about the government’s mass monitoring of telephones and the internet. After the jump, read about the cloak-and-dagger details from the perspective of the reporter to whom he leaked the classified information.
Do you consider him to be a traitor for giving aid and comfort to the enemy by disrupting a major anti-terrorism program? Or do you consider him to be a patriot for exposing major threats to constitutional principles and American liberties?
He called me BRASSBANNER, a code name in the double-barreled style of the National Security Agency, where he worked in the signals intelligence directorate.
Verax was the name he chose for himself, “truth teller” in Latin. . . .
Edward Joseph Snowden, 29, knew full well the risks he had undertaken and the awesome powers that would soon be arrayed to hunt for him. Pseudonyms were the least of his precautions as we corresponded from afar. Snowden was spilling some of the most sensitive secrets of a surveillance apparatus he had grown to detest. By late last month, he believed he was already “on the X” — exposure imminent.
“I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions, and that the return of this information to the public marks my end,” he wrote in early May, before we had our first direct contact. He warned that even journalists who pursued his story were at risk until they published.
The U.S. intelligence community, he wrote, “will most certainly kill you if they think you are the single point of failure that could stop this disclosure and make them the sole owner of this information.”
I did not believe that literally, but I knew he had reason to fear.
A series of indirect contacts preceded our first direct exchange May 16. Snowden was not yet ready to tell me his name, but he said he was certain to be exposed — by his own hand or somebody else’s. Until then, he asked that I not quote him at length. He said semantic analysis, another of the NSA’s capabilities, would identify him by his patterns of language.
“You can’t protect the source,” he wrote, “but if you help me make the truth known, I will consider it a fair trade.” Later, he added, “There’s no saving me.”
I asked him, at the risk of estrangement, how he could justify exposing intelligence methods that might benefit U.S. adversaries.
“Perhaps I am naive,” he replied, “but I believe that at this point in history, the greatest danger to our freedom and way of life comes from the reasonable fear of omniscient State powers kept in check by nothing more than policy documents.” The steady expansion of surveillance powers, he wrote, is “such a direct threat to democratic governance that I have risked my life and family for it.”
In an e-mail on May 24, he dropped a bombshell. Whistleblowers before him, he said, had been destroyed by the experience. Snowden wanted “to embolden others to step forward,” he wrote, by showing that “they can win.” He therefore planned to apply for asylum in Iceland or some other country “with strong internet and press freedoms,” although “the strength of the reaction will determine how choosy I can be.” . . .
“The internet is on principle a system that you reveal yourself to in order to fully enjoy, which differentiates it from, say, a music player,” he wrote. “It is a TV that watches you. The majority of people in developed countries spend at least some time interacting with the Internet, and Governments are abusing that necessity in secret to extend their powers beyond what is necessary and appropriate.”
In his mind, he probably revealed himself publicly as a way to make it more difficult for him to be assassinated. As it is, he exposes himself to strong legal action.
For more details, see Edward Snowden comes forward as source of NSA leaks – The Washington Post.