Whether you’re running a 20-person office or the world’s biggest intelligence agency, remember who has the power to blow you up.
Edward Snowden—the man behind what the Guardian is calling, with only a little hyperbole, “one of the most significant leaks in US political history”—was not what you would call a high-level agent.
By his own account, Snowden was a mediocre student who joined the National Security Agency (NSA) as a security guard, learned to program, wound up managing network security for the CIA station in Geneva, and then spent four years working at the NSA for private contractors. What he saw apparently prompted him to take refuge in Hong Kong before leaking top-secret documents about the NSA’s intelligence-gathering capabilities to the Guardian and the Washington Post.
And it’s precisely his lowly status that made Snowden such a risk, according to John Schindler, an ex-NSA analyst and counterintelligence officer who now teaches at the US Naval War College.