Now that the source of the leak published last week in the Washington Post has identified himself, the response from defenders of the surveillance state was immediate and predictable. Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old employee of a National Security Agency (NSA) contractor, Booz Allen Hamilton, hoped that with the election of President Obama in 2008 the surveillance state in America would at least be partially dismantled. When it was clear that the infrastructure of that vast intelligence community and its increasingly threatening capabilities was continuing to grow, it also became obvious to Snowden what he had to do: “I realized that I was part of something that was doing far more harm than good.”
In an interview with Glenn Greenwald of the British newspaper The Guardian, Snowden explained:
The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting.
If I wanted to see your emails or your wife’s phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records [even] credit cards.
I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under.
Snowden is putting everything he treasures at risk: His parents work for the government and he has a girlfriend whom he admits he might not be seeing again for a long time. He was making $200,000 a year and for a while, at least, he felt he had a stable career and a pleasant, enjoyable, and interesting life. But that appears to be over. Said Snowden:
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Photo of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper: AP Images