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NSA contractor risks steep jail time for data leak

By Kimberly Dozier

AP Intelligence Writer

LAST UPDATED: 01:36 p.m. HST, Jun 10, 2013

WASHINGTON » The man who gave classified documents to reporters, making public two sweeping U.S. surveillance programs and touching off a national debate on privacy versus security, has revealed his own identity. He risked decades in jail for the disclosures — if the U.S. can extradite him from Hong Kong where he has taken refuge.

Edward Snowden, 29, who says he worked as a contractor at the National Security Agency and the CIA, allowed The Guardian and The Washington Post newspapers to reveal his identity Sunday.

Both papers have published a series of top-secret documents outlining two NSA surveillance programs. One gathers hundreds of millions of U.S. phone records while searching for possible links to known terrorist targets abroad, and the second allows the government to tap into nine U.S. Internet companies to gather all Internet usage to detect suspicious behavior that begins overseas.

The revelations have reopened the post-Sept. 11 debate about individual privacy concerns versus heightened measures to protect the U.S. against terrorist attacks. The NSA has asked the Justice Department to conduct a criminal investigation into the leaks. Government lawyers are now "in the initial stages of an investigation into the unauthorized disclosure of classified information by an individual with authorized access," said Nanda Chitre, Justice Department spokeswoman.

President Barack Obama said the programs are authorized by Congress and subject to strict supervision of a secret court, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says they do not target U.S. citizens.

But Snowden claims the programs are open to abuse.

"Any analyst at any time can target anyone. Any selector. Anywhere," Snowden said in a video on the Guardian's website. "I, sitting at my desk, had the authority to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president if I had a personal email."

Some lawmakers have expressed similar concerns about the wide reach of the surveillance.

"I expect the government to protect my privacy. It feels like that isn't what's been happening," said Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "Again, there's a line, but to me, the scale of it and the fact the law was being secretly interpreted has long concerned me," he said Sunday on CNN, adding that at the same time, he abhors leaks.

Senate intelligence committee chairman, Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California, contends the surveillance does not infringe on U.S. citizens' privacy, and that it helped disrupt a 2009 plot to bomb New York City's subways and played a role in the case against an American who scouted targets in Mumbai, India, before a deadly terrorist attack there in 2008. Feinstein spoke on ABC's "This Week."

Clapper has decried the revelation of the intelligence-gathering programs as reckless and said it has done "huge, grave damage."

The spokesman for the Director of National Intelligence Shawn Turner said intelligence officials are "currently reviewing the damage that has been done by these recent disclosures."

The disclosures come as the White House deals with managing fallout from revelations that it secretly seized telephone records of journalists at The Associated Press and Fox News.

Snowden says he was a former technical assistant for the CIA and a current employee of defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, which released a statement Sunday confirming he had been a contractor with them in Hawaii for less than three months, and promising to work with investigators.

Snowden could face many years in prison for releasing classified information if he is successfully extradited from Hong Kong, according to Mark Zaid, a national security lawyer who represents whistleblowers.

Hong Kong, though part of China, is partly autonomous and has a Western-style legal system that is a legacy from the territory's past as a British colony. A U.S.-Hong Kong extradition treaty has worked smoothly in the past. Hong Kong extradited three al-Qaeda suspects to the U.S. in 2003, for example.

But the treaty comes with important exceptions. Key provisions allow a request to be rejected if it is deemed to be politically motivated or that the suspect would not receive a fair trial. Beijing may also block an extradition of Chinese nationals from Hong Kong for national security reasons.

"The government could subject him to a 10 or 20 year penalty for each count," with each document leaked considered a separate charge, Zaid said.

Snowden told the Guardian newspaper he believes the government could try to charge him with treason under the Espionage Act, but Zaid said that would require the government to prove he had intent to betray the United States, whereas he publicly made it clear he did this to spur debate.

"My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them," Snowden told the Guardian.

The government could also make an argument that the NSA leaks have aided the enemy — as military prosecutors have claimed against Army Pvt. Bradley Manning, who faces life in prison under military law if convicted for releasing a trove of classified documents through the Wikileaks website.

"They could say the revelation of the (NSA) programs could instruct people to change tactics," Zaid said. That could add more potential jail time to the punishment.

Snowden told the Post he was not going to hide.

"Allowing the U.S. government to intimidate its people with threats of retaliation for revealing wrongdoing is contrary to the public interest," he said in the interview published Sunday. Snowden said he would "ask for asylum from any countries that believe in free speech and oppose the victimization of global privacy."

Snowden told The Guardian he lacked a high school diploma and served in the U.S. Army until he was discharged because of an injury, and later worked as a security guard with the NSA at a covert facility at the University of Maryland.

He later went to work for the CIA as an information technology employee and by 2007 was stationed in Geneva, Switzerland, where he had access to classified documents.

During that time, he considered going public about the nation's secretive programs but told the newspaper he decided against it, because he did not want to put anyone in danger and he hoped Obama's election would curtail some of the clandestine programs.

He said he was disappointed that Obama did not rein in the surveillance programs.

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

Snowden left the CIA in 2009. He said he spent the last four years at the NSA, briefly as a contractor with consulting giant Booz Allen Hamilton and, before that, Dell.

The Guardian reported that Snowden was working in an NSA office in Hawaii when he copied the last of the documents he planned to disclose and told supervisors that he needed to be away for a few weeks to receive treatment for epilepsy.

He left for Hong Kong on May 20 and has remained there since, according to the newspaper. Snowden is quoted as saying he chose that city because "they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent", and because he believed it was among the spots on the globe that could and would resist the dictates of the U.S. government.

"I feel satisfied that this was all worth it. I have no regrets," Snowden told The Guardian.


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HD36 wrote:
If he gets life in prison, youi know this country has gone past the tipping point towards fascism. ( the merger of government and large corporations)
on June 10,2013 | 06:58AM
den1718 wrote:
If he was a Russian and working in the same capacity what would the Russians do to him for doing the same ? They would do the disappearing act on him.
on June 10,2013 | 01:54PM
HD36 wrote:
He said the CIA might try to put a hit on him via their connecion with the Triads.
on June 10,2013 | 04:43PM
aomohoa wrote:
But this is not Russia and Obama promised transparency.
on June 10,2013 | 04:48PM
pechanga wrote:
on June 12,2013 | 07:59AM
pechanga wrote:
on June 12,2013 | 07:58AM
pcman wrote:
The only way to prevent any fraud, waste and abuse of the data collected for security purposes is to come down hard on anyone who uses any intelligence data for his own purpose, like Snowden did. If not, the pledges taken by all personnel who handle the data means nothing to the intelligence employees, government, and American citizens. The trust that everyone places on the intelligence system can only be maintained by justice on those who break the trust.
on June 10,2013 | 07:16AM
sailfish1 wrote:
This guy doesn't even have a high school diploma. How did he get this job working on classified documents and earning $200,000 a year? Regardless, get him back to the U.S. and send him to jail. There is no valid excuse for violating the nation's trust and leaking confidential information (even if the information is something most intelligent people already know).
on June 10,2013 | 07:23AM
Bdpapa wrote:
Yup, he jeopardized the security of the rest of us.
on June 10,2013 | 07:40AM
BluesBreaker wrote:
Actually, he went to community college, but why does that matter? There are a lot of very smart people working in information technology who don't have academic degrees because they have an aptitude for programming and systems management and are able to learn it own their own faster.

Your post is a good example of the ad hominem fallacy: Attack the person, not the truth of what he's revealed--that our Fourth Amendment rights have been violated by our government. If some people cared about the Fourth Amendment, as much as they do about their Second Amendment rights, we would be much better off.

on June 10,2013 | 07:40AM
GooglyMoogly wrote:
So, you're stance on this is that the end justified the means?
on June 10,2013 | 04:01PM
GooglyMoogly wrote:
*your stance

I'll accept the -1 penalty for terrible spelling.

on June 10,2013 | 04:03PM
aomohoa wrote:
He thought about this long and hard until he realized he had to do the right thing, knowing that it would change his life drastically.
on June 10,2013 | 04:51PM
pechanga wrote:
Moral Conscience
on June 12,2013 | 08:03AM
aomohoa wrote:
I agree with you completely BluesBreaker.
on June 10,2013 | 04:49PM
pechanga wrote:
on June 12,2013 | 08:01AM
scooters wrote:
Yup, Hang'em High!!
on June 10,2013 | 07:43AM
allie wrote:
agree..minor league guy who has done max. damage. Radical Islam is delighted with him and yes, they are coming for Hawaii as well as the rest of the world. They will be a threat for the next century.
on June 10,2013 | 08:14AM
aomohoa wrote:
you have no idea what you are talking about. What else is new? You are the worse kind of liar. The kind that pretends they are someone they are not. Your opinion mean nothing to me.
on June 10,2013 | 04:52PM
pechanga wrote:
All entitled to opinions..."opinions like.......We all have them! LOL
on June 12,2013 | 08:06AM
hukihei wrote:
No high school diploma and authorized access to classified information is the question here. "Any analyst at anytime can target anyone"....his own words.
on June 10,2013 | 07:42AM
allie wrote:
true..bizarre that he had any clearance
on June 10,2013 | 08:13AM
Ewaduffer wrote:
Firing Squad - Tenhut!!
on June 10,2013 | 08:43AM
pechanga wrote:
Oy Vey!
on June 12,2013 | 08:07AM
atilter wrote:
after reading the 4th amendment and this article (providing the article's info is correct???), and with personal beliefs, attitudes, and values aside, - there may be grounds for criminal prosecution here. if so, snowden may be in for a very difficult life, no matter here he goes. many more questions for discussion come to mind concerning the ultimate accountability surrounding the "act" of leaking this very touchy information!
on June 10,2013 | 08:56AM
HD36 wrote:
The main stream media is owned by six corporations, which try to shape the way you think. Some people would rather have a policeman watching them 24/7. I'd rather take my chances and enjoy what freedom we have left. Obviously the Constitution means nothing to the government.
on June 10,2013 | 09:04AM
pechanga wrote:
on June 12,2013 | 08:07AM
aomohoa wrote:
He waited for Obama to prove he would have transparency. It never happened. You might not agree with me, but I think this is someone who really cares about the people and is very aware of the corruption in our government. There was a lot he could have said and didn't. He is giving up his great life to wake up the people.
on June 10,2013 | 09:08AM
HD36 wrote:
He was a Ron Paul supporter. This came as no suprise to Ron Paul, who said you are trading false security for your liberties.
on June 10,2013 | 09:11AM
aomohoa wrote:
When you stop questioning, you are blind to the truth.
on June 10,2013 | 09:42AM
pechanga wrote:
on June 12,2013 | 08:09AM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
He was anti Obama, so he believes that the GOP is going to save him? Hang Um High, Clint.
on June 10,2013 | 10:34AM
aomohoa wrote:
Ridiculous comment!
on June 10,2013 | 04:53PM
pechanga wrote:
I love Obama...but...I disagree
on June 12,2013 | 08:09AM
pechanga wrote:
on June 12,2013 | 08:08AM
Dawg wrote:
Hang him REAL high and make sure his feet don't touch the ground. Haha! In other words - DOG MEAT!
on June 10,2013 | 09:19AM
Fred01 wrote:
You should be hung for being ignorant.
on June 10,2013 | 10:30AM
pechanga wrote:
Oy Vey! Comments reflective of diversity of commenters!
on June 12,2013 | 08:11AM
konag43 wrote:
this guy needs to be prosecuted for revealing the countries secrets. i have no problem for the government to listen in to my conversations if its going to protect me from terroist since i don't do anything wrong anyway. when you work for the government everything you do is a secret even if you don't agree. these types of people are not true americans and are jeopardizing the safety of our country. i totaly agree with sailfish1. 4th ammendment my eye. you people care carrying things too far when you quote the 4th amendment. security of our country is more important. you are the very people that complain when the terroist attackes us and blames the government for the attack but want to tie the governments hands in protecting the us.
on June 10,2013 | 10:26AM
Fred01 wrote:
You have no right to call yourself an American. Loser.
on June 10,2013 | 10:31AM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
You side with a traitor Fred. If he had nothing to hide, why run out of country? Why not hire a lawyer,call Ron Paul, and hope for the best? Nope, like a thief he fled in the night.
on June 10,2013 | 11:14AM
Fred01 wrote:
Are you that blind?
on June 10,2013 | 11:39AM
TLehel wrote:
Because if the guy didn't leave he'd be dead already. Then there'd be some fake story about how he died trying to resist arrest, when really the government executed him.
on June 10,2013 | 12:42PM
aomohoa wrote:
So the people knowing the truth through the transparency, we were suppose to have, is not a priority to you? I forgot, you don't even care about the corruption in our own local government. Oh no, did I say that? YES!
on June 10,2013 | 01:43PM
HD36 wrote:
Treason is betraying your country. The country is made up of people its not the government. All he did was warn the people. He tried to tell his supervisors that it was morally wrong to spy on Americans but they told him don't worry about it.
on June 10,2013 | 04:46PM
aomohoa wrote:
He would be dead by now if he didn't get out of the country. He may end up that way anyway.
on June 10,2013 | 04:55PM
pechanga wrote:
on June 12,2013 | 08:13AM
pechanga wrote:
on June 12,2013 | 08:12AM
pechanga wrote:
Your opinion...
on June 12,2013 | 08:12AM
localguy wrote:
The NSA is the one directly responsible for this fiasco. They selected a low budget/performance contractor, Booze, Allen, Hamilton, which following NSA guidance, allowed a contractor to have full access to all those top secret documents. Hmmm, wonder what level of security clearance Eward had? Also revealed the NSA failed to ensure the contractor met all government security standards. How else can you explain how this guy just walked out of the office with Top Secret documents and no one to check him. NSA is whining like they have been gut shot. It is their own incometence responsilbe for this theft. Some heads at the NSA deserve to rolll for their willful failure to maintain document security. Your tax dollars at work.
on June 10,2013 | 11:03AM
Oahuan2 wrote:
I cannot believe our government could stoop to putting this guy in prison. Actually, I can believe the Obama administration would do this. Mr. Snowden is a whistleblower and should be protected. If people inside our government are prohibited from outing government operations used to spy on its people then we all need to run and hide NOW. I believe that a soldier has the right to stop an officer from committing a crime in the line of duty. He may be subjected to court martial but I believe he does have a right and an obligation to speak up if a crime is being committed by a superior officer.
on June 10,2013 | 11:15AM
pcman wrote:
IRT Oahuan on whistleblower. A whistle blower will tell the truth for no benefit to himself. I am of the mind that Snowden was recruited by the Communist Chinese human intelligence (HUMINT) to reveal the Prism program to show the US. as a "big bad wolf." In return, the Chinese would give him millions of dollars and freedom to live anywhere in China as an honorable guest of the Communist Party. Later on, Snowden can contact his girlfriend to marry him or to come and go to China at the PRC's expense. This is yet to be proven, but Snowden is a liar and traitor.
on June 10,2013 | 11:33AM
Hapa_Haole_Boy wrote:
You are using a term that you do not fully understand. A whistleblower uses legitimate (i.e. legal) means to disclose wrongdoing. This person, if what he is alleged to have done is true, did not use legitimate means to disclose. Do not make out this traitor into a good samaritan.
on June 10,2013 | 12:50PM
pechanga wrote:
on June 12,2013 | 08:14AM
Oahuan2 wrote:
And by the way, why is Mr. Snowden's lack of formal education being played up. So what he doesn't have a college degree. This is probably why he is capable of thinking on his own. He sounds articulate, he believes he has done the right thing, he is not hiding the fact that he did what he did (unlike our current administration who hides/lies about everything).
on June 10,2013 | 11:18AM
Denominator wrote:
Don't be surprised when it comes out that he did this for money. $$$$$
on June 10,2013 | 01:34PM
aomohoa wrote:
What?? He just lost a $200,000 a year job. Stupid comment!
on June 10,2013 | 04:56PM
pechanga wrote:
on June 12,2013 | 08:15AM
ahi1pfb wrote:
There will come a time down the road where all of you will be asking, how did we let our govt. do this to us. The old adage Big Brother is watching has never rung truer than it is today. Be careful what you ask for cuz you will get it in the end. The rear end. Is it time for my audit yet?
on June 10,2013 | 11:45AM
pechanga wrote:
Shhhh...do not utter word......
on June 12,2013 | 08:16AM
HawaiiNoKaOi wrote:
Sure is getting confusing these days, is this the person who is on trial with the Chinese girlfriend? And is there any tie in to the wiki leaks case? Loyalty vs Conscious..........hmmmmmmmm.
on June 10,2013 | 12:03PM
pechanga wrote:
Moral dilemma
on June 12,2013 | 08:20AM
Hapa_Haole_Boy wrote:
Agreed with all you say konag43.
on June 10,2013 | 12:47PM
TLehel wrote:
The government is all jagged that their cat is out of the box. As if everyone didn't already assume our calls are monitored. I'm sure the terrorists are smart enough to figure that one out for themselves. The reason the government wants to get this guy is to show people what happens when you speak out. They're trying to deter others from even more secret programs from using their voice. If this program was "secret" and most of us already assumed it was happening beforehand anyway, imagine what else is going on behind the curtain.
on June 10,2013 | 12:56PM
aomohoa wrote:
We hear mostly half truths or lies because the government does everything it can to control the press.
on June 10,2013 | 01:48PM
pechanga wrote:
Sophistry ensures confusion....
on June 12,2013 | 08:21AM
Hapa_Haole_Boy wrote:
This guy has NO RIGHT to be called an American. He should be tried for and found guilty of TREASON, stripped of his citizenship, and put to DEATH. He had no right to use his position in the govt/contractor to divulge classified information which now puts our ENTIRE nation and all its citizens (yes even you dimwits who are supporting this coward) in REAL JEOPARDY. Read the article, and other related ones-- information-gathering techniques like this are NECESSARY to help combat TERRORISTS, as evinced by the thwarting of the 2009 NYC subway bombing attempt. There are other, legit ways for citizens concerned about the way our government may operate to voice their concerns-- ways which DO NOT put our nation at risk. This person chose to use an illegitimate method-- and should anything happen to our nation or any of its citizens, that BLOOD will be on HIS HANDS, and I hope the guilt weighs on his conscience for all eternity.
on June 10,2013 | 12:58PM
TLehel wrote:
Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa baaa baaaaa baaaaa. Sorry, my Sheepanese isn't very good.
on June 10,2013 | 01:07PM
pechanga wrote:
Clever you!
on June 12,2013 | 08:23AM
wes wrote:
Wake up. This is no secret to terrorists, but is a major threat to everyone who is a US citizen. It's a threat to our freedom. There's a balance between our liberties and what the gov't needs to do it's job. This is an important point of discussion, and one that we as a nation need to discuss.
on June 10,2013 | 01:40PM
Hapa_Haole_Boy wrote:
What's this "threat" that you speak of? That the govt sees that I'm playing Angry Birds on my phone? Made a call to my Uncle last week? This supposed threat pales in comparison to the benefit-- to gather intel on terror threats BEFORE they are carried out.
on June 10,2013 | 02:01PM
HD36 wrote:
The threat is that they keep data on you for decades. They know your friends, your political beliefs, and your sexual preferences. As government policy changes, you might fall on their radar for something you did years ago that was perfectly legal at the time. Now they can take things out of context and make you look like someone who was plotting against the government.
on June 10,2013 | 04:50PM
Hapa_Haole_Boy wrote:
Ok now you're just spinning a tale, a fictional tale. Paranoia is not the best way to look at an issue.
on June 10,2013 | 08:36PM
pechanga wrote:
on June 12,2013 | 08:24AM
pechanga wrote:
Oy Vey! Radical...
on June 12,2013 | 08:23AM
rayhawaii wrote:
I don't know how the guy ever got hired. Don't ever hire someone who keeps switching jobs because he can't handle one. BIG sign to employers. How many jobs the guy had in the past 12 years? Most people can't hold a job because of drugs or alcohol and keep getting cheap good for nothing jobs.
on June 10,2013 | 01:25PM
wes wrote:
This guy brought to light an important topic affecting OUR civil liberties. Yet, a majority of commenters here want to hang him. I get it, he did wrong -- and justifiably, he needs to be punished to the full extent of the law. At the same time, he did us, the citizens of the United States, a favor by bringing to a light a program that jeopardizes OUR freedom. Who knows what Edward's true intent was for releasing this data, but until I see otherwise, this guy did something that takes a lot of guts trying to raise awareness on a program that can affect everyone. There's a fine balance between our civil liberties and going too far. He pretty much screwed any chance of living in the US to bring a serious issue to light. All of you condemning this man for standing up for what he thinks is right, should really take a look in the mirror and ask yourselves what it means to live in a free country. If you saw something gravely wrong in the government, would you have the balls to give up everything to do what is right?
on June 10,2013 | 01:38PM
Hapa_Haole_Boy wrote:
"There's a fine balance between our civil liberties and going too far." So you mean the fact that the govt gets to listen in on my cell convo with my Grandma is going too far? I would say it is not going too far, if it means it also lets the govt key in on terror threats BEFORE they happen. Listen away all you want govt. Do you know that in Britain, they have closed-circuit TV EVERYWHERE, for govt surveillance purposes. Speaking out is one thing, but the way he did it, and the cost that we are all meant to bear is another.
on June 10,2013 | 02:00PM
Fred01 wrote:
Yes, loser.
on June 10,2013 | 02:38PM
Hapa_Haole_Boy wrote:
unassailable logic Fred01.
on June 10,2013 | 02:43PM
wes wrote:
If you read his concerns, it's about people taking advantage of the surveillance. Your neighbor who hates you, works for the gov't, decides he wants to get all the information on you can do so. It's there, being recorded without warrant or reason. Is this in line with the principles that makes America a great country? How far does this power go? It's only a matter of time before this type of data is abused. If the data were kept in confidence by gov't and immune to any type of abuse, sure then I'm all for it. But this is not the case -- as shown by the fact that Snowden can access and decimate this information. So, are you willing to let everyone listen to your conversation with Grandma? Because that's what is basically happening.
on June 11,2013 | 10:00AM
pechanga wrote:
Many keep balls in pockets for safekeeping....deaf, dumb, and blind...
on June 12,2013 | 08:26AM
den1718 wrote:
This guy is putting American lives at risk. He is not a hero. Try a traitor. What would the Russians do to a person like him?
on June 10,2013 | 01:45PM
atilter wrote:
it might depend upon FROM which side he may trying to defect....if he revealed russian practices, given the civil laws by which we are supposed to have, he, as the confessed revealer would probably have a better chance with USoA.....but, as a self-made MARTYR, here in the USoA looking for a safe "haven", he just might live to a ripe old age (where and/or how, i dunno)...........
on June 10,2013 | 02:55PM
HD36 wrote:
What was the defense of the Nazi war criminals during the Nuremburg trials? We were just following orders. Why were they convicted? Because even if you are just following orders, if you know those orders are morally wrong, and the law is morally wrong, you shouldn't have followed them. Why is whitsle blowing encouraged in the private sector but not when it comes to the government?
on June 10,2013 | 04:53PM
pechanga wrote:
on June 12,2013 | 08:28AM
moanamalosi wrote:
NSA's filtering of our phone calls, emails, etc didnt prevent the Boston bombing, or prevent Benghazi, or Nidal Hassan from killing Americans,. Slowly but surely big brother is coming, but at least we know he's coming.
on June 10,2013 | 09:50PM
pechanga wrote:
Big brother has been here a long while now....
on June 12,2013 | 08:29AM
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