WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — Federal officials are in the process of filing charges against the National Security Agency whistle-blower who revealed how the intelligence agency spies on Americans.
CBS News reports that Edward Snowden could face charges from the United States government after revealing to British newspaper The Guardian two surveillance programs under the NSA.
One program collects hundreds of millions of U.S. phone records. The second gathers audio, video, email, photographic and Internet search usage of foreign nationals overseas, and probably some Americans in the process, who use major providers such as Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Yahoo.
On Sunday The Guardian identified Snowden, a 29-year-old American who works as a contract employee at the NSA, as the source of the disclosures. The newspaper said it was publishing the identity of Snowden, a former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, at his request.
“I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” he was quoted as saying.
Snowden conducted the interview at a Hong Kong hotel but recently checked out, according to reports. He is reportedly still in Hong Kong, but according to The Guardian, Russia has offered to consider an asylum request from Snowden.
“If such an appeal is given, it will be considered. We’ll act according to facts,” Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, said, The Guardian reports.
CBS News reports that Hong Kong does have an extradition treaty with the U.S., but there is an exception in the treaty for crimes that are deemed political.
Snowden told The Guardian that he lacked a high school diploma and enlisted in the U.S. Army until he was discharged because of an injury, and later worked as a security guard with the NSA.
He later went to work for the CIA as an information technology employee and by 2007 was stationed in Geneva, Switzerland, where he had access to classified documents.
During that time, he considered going public about the nation’s secretive programs but told the newspaper he decided against it, because he did not want to put anyone in danger and he hoped Obama’s election would curtail some of the clandestine programs.
He said he was disappointed that Obama did not rein in the surveillance programs.
“Much of what I saw in Geneva really disillusioned me about how my government functions and what its impact is in the world,” he told The Guardian. “I realized that I was part of something that was doing far more harm than good.”
Snowden left the CIA in 2009 to join a private contractor, and spent last four years at the NSA, as a contractor with consulting giant Booz Allen Hamilton and, before that, Dell.
The Guardian reported that 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.
Snowden left for Hong Kong on May 20 and has remained there since, according to the newspaper. Snowden is quoted as saying he chose that city because “they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent”, and because he believed it was among the spots on the globe that could and would resist the dictates of the U.S. government.
“I feel satisfied that this was all worth it. I have no regrets,” Snowden told The Guardian,
The NSA filed a criminal report with the Justice Department last week in relation to the leaks. The director of national intelligence, James Clapper, has stated repeatedly that the NSA’s programs do not target U.S. citizens and that the agency uses a process known as “minimization” to sift out data from “any U.S. persons whose communications might be incidentally intercepted.”
His statement Saturday said that “the dissemination of information about U.S. persons is expressly prohibited unless it is necessary to understand foreign intelligence … is evidence of a crime or indicates a threat of death or serious bodily harm.”
President Barack Obama said the programs are authorized by Congress and subject to strict supervision of a secret court.
“It’s important to recognize that you can’t have 100 percent security and also then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience,” Obama said. “We’re going to have to make some choices as a society.”
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