Ex-CIA technician who leaked Verizon court order comes forward
June 10, 2013 25 Comments
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Last week, British newspaper The Guardian revealed a secret court order that enables the United States government to collect the telephone records of millions of customers of Verizon, one of America’s largest cellular phone service providers. On the morning of Sunday, June 9, the individual responsible for leaking the secret court order came forward on his own volition. He is Edward Snowden, a former technical assistant for the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The 29-year-old computer expert, who has been working for the National Security Agency (NSA) for the last four years, told The Guardian that he decided to leak the injunction because he felt it posed “an existential threat to democracy”. He added that he was not motivated by money in disclosing the document. Were he after money, he said, he “could have sold these documents to any number of countries and gotten very rich”. In a video published on The Guardian’s website, Snowden told the paper that his disillusionment with America’s “federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers” began even before 2007, when he was stationed under diplomatic cover at the CIA station in Geneva, Switzerland. He finally decided to act three weeks ago, he said, after careful consideration of the ramifications of his decision for his life and career.
As a consultant for private-sector intelligence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, Snowden said he has a stable job that earns him “roughly $200,000 a year. But he is prepared, he said, to sacrifice that, as well as his house in Hawaii, in order to draw attention to “what the US government is doing [...] even for an instant”. Snowden told The Guardian that he understood he would be “made to suffer” for his actions, but that was “willing to sacrifice all that” because he couldn’t, in good conscience, “allow the US government to destroy privacy, Internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building”.
On the day The Guardian published the secret court order, I opined that the big news story in the revelation was not the surveillance itself; after all, the wholesale and indiscriminate interception of electronic communications traffic has been a core feature of the US government’s post-9/11 security paradigm. The real story, in my opinion, was the very fact that the injunction, issued by the ultra-secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court, had been leaked. It is indeed remarkable that, in the age of WikiLeaks, US intelligence policy planners were under the impression that a system of wholesale surveillance could remain secret for long. In 2011, I wrote in connection to WikiLeaks, that governments were going to have to adapt their secrecy models to fit new reality, in which secrecy can be undermined by independent actors commanding limited technical resources.
Snowden is indeed one such actor, who appears to be guided by a set of personal ideological principles. It is worth noting that, on May 20, in preparation for leaking the FISA injunction, the self-styled whistleblower left his job and boarded a plane to Hong Kong, where he is currently holed up in a hotel. He told his interviewers that the reason he chose to seek refuge in Hong Kong is because he believes that the Chinese city has “a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent”. He added that the People’s Republic of China is “one of the few places in the world that both could and would resist the dictates of the US government”. However, Snowden said he was not confident that the Chinese government would offer him protection and said he intends to file for political asylum with the government of Iceland, because it is known as “a champion of Internet freedom”. Iceland’s International Modern Media Institute, an online civil liberties organization with strong connections to the government of Iceland, said on Sunday that it was attempting to get in touch with Snowden “and discuss the details of his asylum request”.