Meet the Whistleblower: Edward Snowden

In a courageous and brilliant strategic move, the whistleblower everyone is talking about has come forward and revealed his identity as well as current location.  His name is Edward Snowden, he is 29 years old and has fled to Hong Kong.  He was most recently working with the NSA as a contractor for Booz Allen Hamilton.  If you recall, Booz Allen Hamilton is one of the defense contractors that activist and unofficial Anonymous spokesperson Barrett Brown was investigating when he was arrested and turned into a political prisoner. As might be expected, The Guardian has broken Mr. Snowden’s story.  Some choice excerpts are below:

The individual responsible for one of the most significant leaks in US political history is Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defence 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, after several days of interviews, is revealing his identity at his request. From the moment he decided to disclose numerous top-secret documents to the public, he was determined not to opt for the protection of anonymity. “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” he said.

In a note accompanying the first set of documents he provided, he wrote: “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 has had “a very comfortable life” that included a salary of roughly $200,000, a girlfriend with whom he shared a home in Hawaii, a stable career, and a family he loves. “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.”

On May 20, he boarded a flight to Hong Kong, where he has remained ever since. 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.

“All my options are bad,” he said. The US could begin extradition proceedings against him, a potentially problematic, lengthy and unpredictable course for Washington. Or the Chinese government might whisk him away for questioning, viewing him as a useful source of information. Or he might end up being grabbed and bundled into a plane bound for US territory.

The only time he became emotional during the many hours of interviews was when he pondered the impact his choices would have on his family, many of whom work for the US government. “The only thing I fear is the harmful effects on my family, who I won’t be able to help any more. That’s what keeps me up at night,” he said, his eyes welling up with tears. 

In 2003, he enlisted in the US army and began a training program to join the Special Forces. Invoking the same principles that he now cites to justify his leaks, he said: “I wanted to fight in the Iraq war because I felt like I had an obligation as a human being to help free people from oppression”.

He recounted how his beliefs about the war’s purpose were quickly dispelled. “Most of the people training us seemed pumped up about killing Arabs, not helping anyone,” he said. After he broke both his legs in a training accident, he was discharged.

“Much of what I saw in Geneva really disillusioned me about how my government functions and what its impact is in the world,” he says. “I realized that I was part of something that was doing far more harm than good.”

Thank you Edward Snowden.  You are the definition of hero.

There is a powerful video interview with Edward in the full Guardian article, which can be found here.

In Liberty,

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  1. Trilaterization

    Industry experts say that intelligence and law enforcement agencies also use a new technology, known as trilaterization, that allows tracking of an individual’s location, moment to moment. The data, obtained from cellphone towers, can track the altitude of a person, down to the specific floor in a building. There is even software that exploits the cellphone data seeking to predict a person’s most likely route. “It is extreme Big Brother,” said Alex Fielding, an expert in networking and data centers.

    • LOL. That’s been around for awhile. There have been several instances when local police departments have slipped up and mentioned the use of cell tower tracking.

      In fact, if you pay attention to some of the cop “reality” shows like 48 Hours, you’ll notice sometimes that there will be a gap in the storyline regarding how the detectives from A to B. A voiceover will proclaim something like, “Using the victim’s cellphone, detectives were able to determine the identity of the assailant,” in order to placate any idiot box viewer who might have actually been thinking. In reality, it wasn’t the victim’s cell phone that cracked the case.

  2. Guess they didn’t get a microchip into his skull
    Brave Heart 2.0. Well done mr snow

  3. Booz Allen Hamilton is majority owned by private equity firm The Carlyle Group, while Booz & Company is owned and operated as a partnership.
    May 16, 2008

    McLean, Virginia — Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. (“Booz Allen”) today announced that it will separate its US government and global commercial businesses, selling a majority stake in the US government business to The Carlyle Group for $2.54 billion. This strategic realignment will enable Booz Allen’s two businesses to refocus on their distinct end markets. Simultaneous with Carlyle’s investment, Booz Allen’s commercial business will form a stand-alone company, which will be owned and operated by the commercial officers. The transaction is expected to close in mid-late 2008, subject to shareholder and regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions.

  4. Whistleblower Journalist Glenn Greenwald

  5. I love Glenn, but I’m gonna withhold reaching any strong conclusions on this story. Watch and listen. Remember, the Republicans (Rove) set up Dan Rather with a false document on the true story of Bush’s AWOL military career. Maybe it’s legit whistleblowing, but these guys are capable of anything.

  6. Mike, how is this case different than what Bill Binney revealed, Bill being one of the top guys at NSA (other than the obvious difference that this current story is grabbing headlines)?

  7. A closer look – and a reserved judgement – is in order re; Snowden. Just in one quick glance, there seems to be some decidedly “global” motivations to his actions – and his words. In the brief quotes above, he quite tellingly uses phrases like “…that rule the world that I love…”, and “…basic liberties for people around the world…”

    Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for anything that pokes the status quo in the eye – but be wary of hoisting this fellow up on your shoulders just yet.

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