WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden has resurfaced after recently revealing himself as the one who leaked U.S. government surveillance program documents.
Snowden, 29, who has been staying in Hong Kong since leaving his Hawaii home last month, tells the South China Morning Post that he is not hiding.
“People who think I made a mistake in picking Hong Kong as a location misunderstand my intentions. I am not here to hide from justice; I am here to reveal criminality,” Snowden told the Post.
Snowden revealed to The Guardian and The Washington Post last week surveillance programs that the NSA conducts on Americans.
One of them is a phone records monitoring program in which the NSA gathers hundreds of millions of U.S. phone records each day, creating a database through which it can learn whether terror suspects have been in contact with people in the U.S. The Obama administration says the NSA program does not listen to actual conversations.
Separately, an Internet scouring program, code-named PRISM, allows the NSA and FBI to tap directly into nine U.S. Internet companies to gather all Internet usage — audio, video, photographs, emails and searches. The effort is designed to detect suspicious behavior that begins overseas.
Snowden let The Guardian reveal himself in an interview that was published Sunday. Since then, he left the Hong Kong hotel room he was staying at but still remains in the country.
“I have had many opportunities to flee HK, but I would rather stay and fight the United States government in the courts, because I have faith in Hong Kong’s rule of law,” Snowden told the Morning Post. “My intention is to ask the courts and people of Hong Kong to decide my fate.”
Snowden says he still views himself as an American.
“I’m neither traitor nor hero. I’m an American,” Snowden told the Morning Post.
Snowden revealed that the NSA has been hacking hundreds of targets’ computers in Hong Kong and China since 2009.
“We hack network backbones – like huge internet routers, basically – that give us access to the communications of hundreds of thousands of computers without having to hack every single one,” he told the Morning Post.
Snowden originally 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. Booz Allen released a statement Tuesday indicating that the company fired Snowden for his actions.
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.
CBS News reports that federal officials are in the process of filing charges against Snowden for leaking the NSA’s spying programs.
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