LONDON, (Reuters) – A 29-year-old contractor at the U.S. National Security Agency revealed top secret U.S. surveillance programmes to alert the public to what is being done in their name, a British newspaper reported today.
Edward Snowden, a former CIA technical assistant who was working at the super-secret NSA as an employee of defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, is ensconced in a hotel in Hong Kong after leaving the United States with secret documents, the Guardian newspaper reported.
The Guardian published revelations this week that U.S. security services monitored data about phone calls from Verizon and Internet data from large companies such as Google and Facebook. It said Snowden had now asked the newspaper that his identity be disclosed.
The exposure of the secret programmes has triggered widespread debate within the United States and abroad about the vast reach of the NSA, which has expanded its surveillance programmes dramatically in the last decade. U.S. officials say the agency operates within the law.
“My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which was done in their name and that which is done against them,” the Guardian quoted Snowden as saying.
“I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions,” it quoted him as saying in a note that accompanied documents he provided to the newspaper.
“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.”
The Guardian said Snowden had been working at the NSA for four years as a contractor for outside companies including Booz Hamilton and Dell.
Three weeks ago he copied the secret documents at the NSA office in Hawaii where he works and told his supervisor he needed “a couple of weeks” off for treatment for epilepsy, the paper said. On May 20 he flew to Hong Kong, which he said he chose because “they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent”.