The National Security Agency had a secret PRISM data-mining program that, coupled with extensive warrants, allowed it to monitor data passing through U.S. telecommunication companies like Verizon. This secret was a secret until Edward Snowden decided it should no longer be, according to a report in the Christian Science Monitor.
Snowden, 29, was an employee at Booz Allen Hamilton, a consulting firm, at the time that he leaked this secret to The Guardian newspaper, according to the aforementioned report. He was formerly a computer technician with the C.I.A., according to the New York Times.
Coming out as the mastermind behind the leaks on Sunday, Snowden said: “the public needs to decide whether these programs and policies are right or wrong,” according to the Times.
Snowden said that extent of the government’s surveillance systems had just gone too far, and he was willing to sacrifice his own safety to do something about the problem.
“If you realize that that’s the world you helped create and it is going to get worse with the next generation and the next generation and extend the capabilities of this architecture of oppression, you realize that you might be willing to accept any risks and it doesn’t matter what the outcome is,” Snowden said while reflecting on the intelligence infrastructure he dealt with, the Times further reported.
Snowden’s leaking has served as a launching point for further discussion on the effect private intelligence contractors have had on the government’s ability to keep secrets. According to the Monitor, after 9/11, tens of billions of dollars have flown into private contractors like Booz Allen, giving their thousands of employees access to the some of the government’s most prized secrets. Citing The Guardian, Dan Murphy of the Monitor says that it is primarily their effectiveness at creating and dealing with new technology that is responsible for the increasing role private contractors play in national intelligence.
Snowden is currently in Hong Kong, which has a strong extradition treaty with the United States, according to the Washington Post. The report further cited experts who said that if the United States wanted to prosecute Snowden on breaking espionage laws, they should be able to extradite him back to the U.S. for prosecution.
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