Edward Snowden: Hero or Villain?
From Edward Snowden: The Whistleblower Behind the NSA Surveillance Revelations by Glenn Greenwald in The Guardian
He has had "a very comfortable life" that included a salary of roughly $200,000, a girlfriend with whom he shared a home in Hawaii, a stable career, and a family he loves. "I'm willing to sacrifice all of that because I can'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 May 20, he boarded a flight to Hong Kong, where he has remained ever since. He chose the city because "they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent", and because he believed that it was one of the few places in the world that both could and would resist the dictates of the US government.
. . . He left the CIA in 2009 in order to take his first job working for a private contractor that assigned him to a functioning NSA facility, stationed on a military base in Japan. It was then, he said, that he "watched as Obama advanced the very policies that I thought would be reined in", and as a result, "I got hardened."
. . . Over the next three years, he learned just how all-consuming the NSA's surveillance activities were, claiming "they are intent on making every conversation and every form of behaviour in the world known to them".
. . . He views his best hope as the possibility of asylum, with Iceland – with its reputation of a champion of internet freedom – at the top of his list. He knows that may prove a wish unfulfilled.
But after the intense political controversy he has already created with just the first week's haul of stories, "I feel satisfied that this was all worth it. I have no regrets."
From Guardian Interview with Snowden
Q: Is it possible to put security in place to protect against state surveillance?
A: "You are not even aware of what is possible. The extent of their capabilities is horrifying. We can plant bugs in machines. Once you go on the network, I can identify your machine. You will never be safe whatever protections you put in place."
. . . Q: When did you decide to leak the documents?
A: "You see things that may be disturbing. When you see everything you realise that some of these things are abusive. The awareness of wrong-doing builds up. There was not one morning when I woke up [and decided this is it]. It was a natural process.
"A lot of people in 2008 voted for Obama. I did not vote for him. I voted for a third party. But I believed in Obama's promises. I was going to disclose it [but waited because of his election]. He continued with the policies of his predecessor."
From The New York Times
Mr. Snowden, who grew up in North Carolina, did not finish high school and sporadically attended classes at Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, Md. Military records show he enlisted in the Army Reserve as a Special Forces recruit in May 2004 and was discharged less than four months later, reportedly after breaking his legs in a training accident.
Somewhere along the way, he acquired a top-secret clearance, which, with his computer expertise, was a ticket for admission to the national security establishment....
. . . Mr. Snowden bounced between jobs both inside the government and as a contractor for the Central Intelligence Agency in Switzerland and for the National Security Agency in Japan, Maryland and Hawaii, according to his account. Eventually working for nearly $200,000 a year in classified facilities as a computer systems administrator, he had access to enormous amounts of secret information.
From Washington Post by Barton Gellman
. . . Verax was the name he chose for himself, “truth teller” in Latin. I asked him early on, without reply, whether he intended to hint at the alternative fates that lay before him.
Two British dissenters had used the pseudonym. Clement Walker, a 17th-century detractor of Parliament, died in the brutal confines of the Tower of London. Two centuries later, social critic Henry Dunckley adopted “Verax” as his byline over weekly columns in the Manchester Examiner. He was showered with testimonials and an honorary degree.
. . . I asked him, at the risk of estrangement, how he could justify exposing intelligence methods that might benefit U.S. adversaries.
“Perhaps I am naive,” he replied, “but I believe that at this point in history, the greatest danger to our freedom and way of life comes from the reasonable fear of omniscient State powers kept in check by nothing more than policy documents.” The steady expansion of surveillance powers, he wrote, is “such a direct threat to democratic governance that I have risked my life and family for it.”
In an e-mail on May 24, he dropped a bombshell. Whistleblowers before him, he said, had been destroyed by the experience. Snowden wanted “to embolden others to step forward,” he wrote, by showing that “they can win.” He therefore planned to apply for asylum in Iceland or some other country “with strong internet and press freedoms,” although “the strength of the reaction will determine how choosy I can be.”
. . . On Sunday afternoon, as his name was released to the world, Snowden chatted with me live from a Hong Kong hotel room, not far from a CIA base in the U.S. Consulate.
“There’s no precedent in my life for this kind of thing,” he wrote. “I’ve been a spy for almost all of my adult life — I don’t like being in the spotlight.”
I asked him once more which of the two Veraxes he expected to become: the happy ending or life behind bars?
“That’s up to the global public,” he typed back. “If asylum is offered, we’ll have the first example. If not, we’ll have the second. I am prepared for both.”
From Mother Jones
a spokesman for Anne Arundel Community College (AACC), located in southeastern Maryland, tells Mother Jones a student with Snowden's name and birthdate attended the college from 1999 to 2001 and then again from 2004 to 2005. He did not receive a certificate or degree, the spokesman, Daniel Baum, says..
But here's an interesting wrinkle: Baum says Snowden took no "cyber-related courses" at this college. Nor did he take any classes in the college's NSA-certified "Information Systems Security" program, which focuses on safeguarding computer data and networks, though he went on to work in a related field for the government and in the private sector. It's unclear whether Snowden studied computing elsewhere.