Edward Snowden, an ex-computer security admin for the US' CIA has revealed himself as the one that leaked internal government documents to the Guardian newspaper, in an effort to expose the controlling stake the US government had in the online interactions of not only its citizens, but those of foreign nations too.
The revelations of the government's project PRISM, were revealed last week in a spate of leaks by Snowden, showing government documents that suggested the NSA had access to data held by many of the world's top tech firms, including: Facebook, Google, Yahoo and many more. In his report, Snowden said: “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 traveled to Hong Kong to perform the interview with The Guardian, as well as leak the information, because of the what he said was the country's “strong tradition of free speech.” While he claimed to not be worried about his own safety, he was worried about his family, who he could do little to protect.
Currently Snowden is said to work for defence contractor (and NSA sub-contractor) Booze Allen Hamilton, though the company revealed that he had been there for less than three months. It also described the leak as “shocking,” and a “grave violation of the code of conduct and core values of our firm.”
Part of the reason Snowden decided to reveal himself however, was to showcase his technical background. As Wired reports, many people initially decried the leak, suggesting that the Guardian newspaper and the person behind the information, didn't understand the surveillance program and therefore were simply creating a dangerous uproar. However, now that Snowden's history is known, it seems far more credible that he does indeed understand the program and what's at stake.
Snowden has a background in several career fields. He joined the army in 2003, attempting to become part of the Special Forces; he was discharged after breaking both his legs. What followed was a security guard position, which eventually transitioned into IT security in 2007 that led him to have wide clearance to view a lot of classified data. He said that at this point, he began to see that what he was part of, “was doing more harm than good.” He's been wrestling with the idea of leaking information since 2009, but only chose to reveal any of it now.
Describing the CIA as a “threat to democracy,” he went on to learn that the organisation's aim is to eventually tap into every conversation and “every form of behavior in the world.”
KitGuru Says: Pretty heavy stuff – makes you glad you live this side of the Atlantic, but I'm sure we'd all be surprised if our own government didn't have some sort of similar setup in place, even if it is less extensive. How do you guys feel about government organisations looking into your online communication? Is freedom a fair price to pay for security?