True American Hero: I exposed U.S. spy scheme to protect ‘basic liberties’

An ex-CIA employee working as a contractor at the U.S. National Security Agency said he leaked documents and details of a top secret U.S. surveillance program in order to protect the “basic liberties for people around the world.”

Holed up in a hotel room in Hong Kong, Edward Snowden, 29, said he had thought long and hard before publicizing details of an NSA program code-named PRISM, saying he had done so because he felt the United States was building an unaccountable and secret espionage machine that spied on every American.

His whereabouts were not immediately known on Monday. Staff at a luxury hotel in Hong Kong told Reuters that Snowden had checked out at noon.

Snowden, a former technical assistant at the CIA, said he had been working at the super-secret NSA as an employee of contractor Booz Allen. He said he decided to leak information after becoming disenchanted with President Barack Obama, who he said had continued the policies of predecessor George W. Bush.

“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,” he told the Guardian newspaper, which published a video interview with him on its website. The interview was dated June 6.

Both the Guardian and the Washington Post said last week that U.S. security services had monitored data about phone calls from Verizon and Internet data from large companies such as Google and Facebook

James R. Clapper, the director of national intelligence, said Saturday that the Justice Department had launched an investigation of what he called “reckless disclosures of intelligence community measures used to keep Americans safe.

“For me, it is literally — not figuratively — literally gut-wrenching to see this happen because of the huge, grave danger it does to our intelligence capabilities,” Clapper said in an interview with NBC.

‘I have no intention of hiding’

In naming Snowden on Sunday, the newspapers said he had sought to be identified.

“The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything,” Snowden said in explaining his actions.

“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, credit cards,” he said.

“I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” he was quoted as saying. He said he expected U.S. authorities to “demonize” him and said he planned to “ask for asylum from any countries that believe in free speech and oppose the victimization of global privacy.

In a 12-minute video interview posted on the Guardian website, Snowden wears rimless glasses, short-cropped brown hair and a thin beard.

Snowden identifies himself in the video as an infrastructure analyst at an NSA facility in Hawaii for Booz Allen Hamilton, a major defense contractor. He said he previously worked for the CIA as a systems administrator and telecommunications systems officer.

“I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you, or your accountant, to a federal judge, to even the president if I had a personal email,” he said.

Snowden said he decided to expose the NSA secrets because “I do not want to live in a society that does these sort of things.” He said the agency “collects more digital communications from America than we do from the Russians.

He said he fears authorities “will come after my family, my friends, my partner” because of his actions. The Guardian said he was born in Elizabeth City, N.C., and later he and his family moved to Maryland, near Ft. Meade.

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