The story around PRISM, the so-called U.S. surveillance program that reportedly has major tech companies working with U.S. intelligence agencies to track data on non-U.S. terrorist suspects, keeps getting bigger, as this weekend saw the outing of the source of the leak as 29-year-old programmer Edward Snowden.
Snowden has been identified as a former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. He revealed his own identity on his own volition.
(See also: PRISM Fallout: In Cloud We Don’t Trust?)
In an interview with the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, Snowden revealed that he became increasingly disturbed by the U.S. intelligence community’s broader focus on gathering information, especially from domestic U.S. sources.
“The NSA specifically targets the communications of everyone,” Snowden said. “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 that’s the easiest and most efficient and most valuable way to achieve these ends.”
Snowden said he decided to make his identity public to help establish the veracity of his claims.
Where things go from here is anyone’s guess. Certainly, given its previous convictions to prosecute intelligence leaks, the U.S. government will want to have a word with Snowden, a U.S. citizen who is reportedly in Hong Kong at this time. Hong Kong has an extradition treaty with the U.S. but that treaty specifically excludes individuals who are being extradited for political purposes. In matters of foreign relations, it’s Beijing that has final say on Hong Hong’s affairs, so it will be interesting to see how they interpret Snowden’s actions.
Given the timing of the recent summit between U.S. President Barack Obama and China President Xi Jinping this past weekend, it’s a good bet the subject of Snowden’s status came up during at least one of the meetings between the two leaders or their staffs.
Snowden, for his part, suffers no illusions about what’s coming.
“I could be rendered by the CIA, I could have people come after me, or any of their third-party partners… that’s a fear I’ll live under for the rest of my life, however long that happens to be,” the programmer stated.
Image courtesy of The Guardian.