“I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things.” That’s what Edward Snowden said about the PRISM program which spies on everyday Americans. He is the NSA whistleblower who came forward and revealed the government program.
The 29 year old Snowden is a former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defense 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 revealed his name at his request. “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” said Snowden.
He will join Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning as one of the most important whistleblowers in history, exposing the secrecy of the NSA.
The courageous Snowden wrote a note as he surrendered the first set of documents. “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.”
He told the Guardian that he does not want media attention. His purpose was not to achieve personal notoriety.
“I don’t want public attention because I don’t want the story to be about me. I want it to be about what the US government is doing.”
He also said that he knew he would become a government target, and be labeled in negative ways by the various intelligence agencies.
“I know the media likes to personalize political debates, and I know the government will demonize me.”
Snowden said he hopes that attention will not be diverted towards him, instead of the true focus of his revelations, the unlawful surveillance of American citizens.
“I really want the focus to be on these documents and the debate which I hope this will trigger among citizens around the globe about what kind of world we want to live in.” He added: “My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.”
Snowden is giving up a comfortable $200,000 a year salary, and is aware that he may face prosecution for exposing government secrets.
“I’m willing to sacrifice all of that because I can’t in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.”
Snowden began his plans to release the information some three weeks ago. He told his supervisor that he needed some time off to receive treatment for epilepsy, which he suffers from frequently. He told his girlfriend that he would be away for a few weeks. She accepted his statement. It is not unusual for someone who works in the intelligence community to be gone for some time.
Snowden then boarded a flight to Hong Kong on May 20th, where he remains today. He chose the city because “they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent”, and because he believed that it was one of the few places in the world that both could and would resist the dictates of the US government.
He is virtually a self-imposed prisoner for the present. “I’ve left the room maybe a total of three times during my entire stay.”
Will Snowden’s courage prompt other NSA whistleblower to come forward? I hope so. Washington has become a secret society unto itself. It feels no obligation to the people of our once great country.
The Guardian Express