The whistleblower who leaked classified information about the U.S. government’s secret surveillance programs was identified Sunday as a man who had been living in Hawaii.
The British newspaper The Guardian identified the man as Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old contractor who claims to have worked at the National Security Agency and for the Central Intelligence Agency.
Snowden shared information with reporters revealing two surveillance programs — one of them is a phone records monitoring program and the other is an internet scouring program.
In an interview from Hong Kong, Snowden spoke with reporters Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, detailing how the two surveillance programs work.
“Originally we saw that focus narrowly tailored as foreign intelligence gathered overseas. Now increasingly we see it happening domestically and to do that the NSA specifically targets the communications of everyone; it ingests them by default; it collects them in its system and it filters them and it analyzes them and it measures them and it stores them for periods of time, simply because easiest most efficient, valuable way to achieve these ends,” whistleblower Snowden said.
President Barack Obama has said the surveillance programs are authorized by Congress and have been going on since the passage of the Patriot Act following the Sept. 11 attacks.
As the story unfolds, it could be straight from a spy movie.
The Guardian reported that this whistleblower was working for a defense contractor in Hawaii when he copied the last of the documents he planned to disclose.
He then left the country and leaked the classified information to the press.
Before he sat down with reporters and disclosed the phone and internet tapping programs, Snowden and his girlfriend lived in Kunia.
“They were here for two, three months and then suddenly they were leaving,” neighbor Dr. Angel Cunanan said.
He told neighbors he was in the military, but later revealed to reporters that he was employed by the CIA and defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton.
Booz Allen confirmed in a statement that he was an employee of their firm for less than three months on a team assigned to Hawaii and said:
“News reports that this individual has claimed to have leaked classified information are shocking, and if accurate, this action represents a grave violation of the code of conduct and core values of our firm.”
Neighbors say they are also shocked, but noticed the couple taking extreme measures to maintain privacy like keeping all windows closed and even blocking the view into their garage from floor to ceiling.
“Everything was completely blocked like a wall of boxes,” neighbor Carolyn Tijing said.
The house is now for sale.
During an open house Sunday, the realtor said the owner of the house never had the chance to meet Snowden or his girlfriend, who were just renters at the time, but they did notice additional wiring in the garage.
“Like this [hidden lighting equipments and a desk] the owner did not install that,” realtor Kerri Jo Heim said.
Honolulu Police reportedly came to the house Wednesday looking for Snowden, but he had already moved out on May 1.
“He obviously knew what he did was illegal and he’d get arrested for it so he got out of town. From a Hawaii standpoint, good riddance, thanks for leaving,” President of Pacific Forum C.S.I.S, Ralph Cossa said.
Snowden says in his interview with Greenwald and Poitras that he felt a moral obligation to let the American public know what the government is doing.
“When you see everything, you see them on a more frequent basis, you recognize that some of these things are actually abuses. And when you talk to people about them, in a place like this, where this is the normal state of business, people tend not to take them very seriously and move on from them, but over time, that awareness of wrongdoing sort of builds up,” Snowden said. “You cannot come forward against the world’s most powerful intelligence agencies and be completely free from risk because the such powerful adversaries that no one can meaningfully oppose them.”
“I’m sure the guy had good intentions and had an overactive Mother Teresa gene and thought he was going to save Americans from Americans but in reality he was very foolish. We expect the government to honor our privacy, but we also expect our government to protect us from terrorist attacks,” Cossa said.
Snowden could face decades in U.S. jail for revealing classified information, but he plans to seek asylum in another country, possibly Iceland.