WASHINGTON, D.C.: A 29-year-old government contractor revealed himself on Sunday as the source who leaked details of a vast, secret US program to monitor Internet users, as the US spy chief pressed for a criminal probe.
Edward Snowden, who has been working at the National Security Agency (NSA) for the past four years, admitted his role in a video interview posted on the website of The Guardian, the first newspaper to publish the leaked information.
“My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them,” Snowden said, speaking in Hong Kong.
He said that he had gone public because he could not “allow the US government to destroy privacy, Internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.”
A former technical assistant for the Central Intelligence Agency, Snowden worked for the
NSA as an employee of various outside contractors, including Dell and Booz Allen Hamilton.
In a statement, Booz Allen Hamilton confirmed Snowden had been an employee for “less than three months” and promised to help US authorities investigate the “shocking” claim that he had leaked classified information.
Snowden flew to Hong Kong on May 20 after copying the last set of documents he intended to disclose at the NSA’s office in Hawaii, The Guardian said, adding he has remained there ever since, holed up in a hotel room.
Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China with its own legal rules, has an extradition treaty with the United States. The British-based Guardian said it had revealed Snowden’s identity at his own request.
In a statement responding to Snowden’s decision to go public on Sunday, the office of the Director of National Intelligence said the matter had now been “referred to the Department of Justice.”
“The intelligence community is currently reviewing the damage that has been done by these recent disclosures,” it said.
“Any person who has a security clearance knows that he or she has an obligation to protect classified information and abide by the law.”
The Justice department confirmed it had launched an investigation into the disclosures but declined further comment.
In Hong Kong, the US consulate and Hong Kong officials declined to comment on case of Snowden, whose exact location is unknown.
Snowden revealed that he was in the southern Chinese city in an interview with The Guardian newspaper released on Sunday, noting his choice of Hong Kong due to its “strong tradition of free speech.”