Defense Industrial Base // Government (U.S.) // United States
Edward Snowden, an NSA system administrator, leaked the media top secret documents to demonstrate what he views as abuses of U.S. spy powers.
“Snowden might well be the ultimate inside attacker, since he had not only that rarest of rare views into the core of the intelligence rabbit hole but also the ability to collapse the hole if he’d wanted.”
He exposed a court order showing that the NSA obtains the phone records of millions of Americans from phone companies monthly, as well as documents describing the surveillance system for obtaining data from internet companies about foreign targets.
29-year-old Snowden, who used the codename “Verax” (truth teller in Latin) in his communications with reporters held several sensitive computer infrastructure positions over the years at various agencies, including the CIA. At the time of the leaks he was working for the NSA through defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton.
His motive was to bring down the intelligence apparatus through public exposure and a change of policy.
“He was working and living in Hawaii and earning $200,000 a year as an infrastructure analyst, but had worked as a contractor for the NSA for four years on behalf of various contract firms, the Guardian reported.
He started off as a security guard for one of the NSA’s covert facilities at the University of Maryland after being discharged from Army training in 2003, then worked in IT security for the CIA. In 2007, the CIA stationed him with diplomatic cover in Geneva for a computer security job that gave him clearance and access to a wide array of classified documents.
All of these jobs gave him inside knowledge and access that few in the country possess. But it wasn’t until 2009, while he was still on the job in Geneva, that he started to think about leaking some of the secrets he knew.”
He wrote in early May to Washington Post reporter Barton Gellman who broke one of the stories around his leaks: “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,” The U.S. intelligence community “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.”