WASHINGTON — A former undercover CIA employee unmasked himself Sunday as the principal source of recent disclosures about top-secret NSA programs.
Edward Snowden, 29, a system administrator who had worked as a contractor for the NSA, denounced what he described as systematic surveillance of innocent citizens and saying in an interview, “it’s important to send a message to government that people will not be intimidated.”
Snowden, whose full name is Edward Joseph Snowden, said he understands the risks of disclosing the information, but that he felt it was the right thing to do.
“I intend to ask for asylum from any countries that believe in free speech and oppose the victimization of global privacy,” Snowden told The Post. The Guardian was the first to publicly identify Snowden. Both media organizations made his name public with his consent.
Before the world knew his name, Snowden drafted a note of explanation.
He had lived a “comfortable and privileged life.” But he was also deeply uncomfortable with the knowledge that had already been afforded to him in his brief career — knowledge about the U.S. surveillance that officials said they were carrying out to keep America safe.
The revelation about Snowden came just a day after Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that the National Security Agency had launched a Justice Department investigation into the leaks to determine who is responsible.
Snowden said he believes that the government will do whatever it can to prosecute him.
Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, including House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., had previously called for the prosecution of whoever was responsible for the leaks. It was not clear Sunday what punishment, if any, Snowden might face.
For the past several months, Snowden was stationed in Hawaii, working as an NSA contractor for the firm Booz Allen Hamilton. It was there, at the NSA offices, he told the Guardian newspaper, that he copied the last set of documents he intended to disclose, told his NSA supervisors he needed time off for treatment for epilepsy, and boarded a flight to Hong Kong.