A 29-year-old man who says he is a former undercover CIA employee said Sunday that he was the principal source of recent disclosures about top-secret National Security Agency programs, exposing himself to possible prosecution in an acknowledgment that had little if any precedent in the long history of U.S. intelligence leaks.
Edward Snowden, a tech specialist who has contracted for the NSA and works for the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, unmasked himself as a source after a string of stories in The Washington Post and the Guardian that detailed previously unknown U.S. surveillance programs. He said he disclosed secret documents in response to what he described as the systematic surveillance of innocent citizens.
In an interview Sunday, Snowden said he is willing to face the consequences of exposure.
“I’m not going to hide,” Snowden told The Post from Hong Kong, where he has been staying. “Allowing the U.S. government to intimidate its people with threats of retaliation for revealing wrongdoing is contrary to the public interest.”
Asked whether he believes that his disclosures will change anything, he said: “I think they already have. Everyone everywhere now understands how bad things have gotten — and they’re talking about it. They have the power to decide for themselves whether they are willing to sacrifice their privacy to the surveillance state.”
Snowden said nobody had been aware of his actions, including those closest to him. He said there was no single event that spurred his decision to leak the information, but he said President Obama has failed to live up to his pledges of transparency.
“My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them,” he said in a note that accompanied the first document he leaked to The Post.