An NSA employee working through outside contractors is the man behind the NSA leak. A former technical assistant for the CIA and current Booz Allen Hamilton employee, 29-year-old Eric Snowden worked with The Guardian to release his identity today.
Though he publicly disclosed numerous confidential documents, Snowden tells The Guardian:
I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong . . . I don't want public attention [though] because I don't want the story to be about me. I want it to be about what the US government is doing.
Snowden did contract work for the NSA in Hawaii where he lived "comfortably" with his girlfriend on a salary of about £150,000. He gathered the documents for the leak three weeks ago and then took two weeks off from the NSA, ostensibly to seek treatment for his epilepsy. Next he prepared to leave for Hong Kong. Snowden told The Guardian that he barely had to explain the trip or its motives to his girlfriend because his work in intelligence often necessitates secrecy. Snowden has been in Hong Kong ever since, a location he selected for its climate of free speech advocacy and its potential ability to resist U.S. mandates.
Working for Booz Allen Hamilton, and by extension the NSA, wasn't necessarily the obvious path for Snowden, who admits that he was a lousy student and left high school to join the army. After a quiet childhood in Elizabeth City, NC and Fort Meade, MD (near NSA headquarters) Snowden wanted to fight in Iraq to help free others from oppression. But he was surprised at the attitudes he encountered in the Army, which he says reflected a desire to kill more than an ideological interest in liberation. Snowden broke both his legs in a training accident and was discharged. He became a security guard at an NSA facility and then joined the CIA in IT security.
Snowden is insistent that the leak and its consequences for him not overshadow the content of the documents he revealed. Along with the first set of documents he released, Snowden 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.
Still he seems resigned to the fact that there will be consequences and that his actions have totally altered the course of his life.
I think the sense of outrage that has been expressed is justified. It has given me hope that, no matter what happens to me, the outcome will be positive for America. I do not expect to see home again, though that is what I want . . . 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.