US security worker 'behind leaks over secret surveillance methods'
A 29-year-old American who works as a contract employee at the National Security Agency (NSA) is the source of 'The Guardian''s disclosures about the US government's secret surveillance programmes, the British newspaper has reported.
The leaks have re-opened the post-September 11, 2001 debate about privacy concerns versus heightened measures to protect against terrorist attacks, and led the NSA to ask the Justice Department to conduct a criminal investigation.
'The Guardian' said yesterday it was publishing the identity of Edward Snowden, a former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, at his own request.
"I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong," Mr Snowden was quoted as saying.
The director of national intelligence, James Clapper, has decried the revelation of the intelligence-gathering programmes as reckless, and in the past days has taken the rare step of declassifying some details about them to respond to media reports about counterterrorism techniques employed by the government.
An internet-scouring program, code-named PRISM, allows the NSA and FBI to tap directly into the servers of major US internet companies such as Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and AOL, scooping out emails, video chats, instant messages and more to track foreign nationals who are suspected of terrorism or espionage.
The NSA also is collecting the telephone records of millions of American customers, but not actual conversations.
President Barack Obama, Mr Clapper and others have said the programmes have been authorised by Congress and are subject to strict supervision of a secret court.
Mr Snowden is quoted as saying that his "sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them".
'The Guardian' reported that Mr 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. Mr Snowden is quoted as saying he chose that city because "they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent".
Mr Snowden is quoted as saying he hopes the publicity the leaks have caused will provide him some protection and that he sees asylum, perhaps in Iceland, as a possibility.
"I feel satisfied that this was all worth it. I have no regrets," Mr Snowden said.