Edward Snowden told the South China Morning Post that he took the job at NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton explicitly for the purposes of gaining access to information that would provide evidence of the NSA's widespread domestic surveillance activity, a blockbuster leak that was first reported by the Guardian's Glenn Greenwald earlier this month.
"My position with Booz Allen Hamilton granted me access to lists of machines all over the world the NSA hacked," Snowden told SCMP on June 12. "That is why I accepted that position about three months ago."
SCMP did not publish Snowden's admission until Monday. The delay in disclosure appears to be a result of an agreement Snowden made with SCMP in exchange for interviews. SCMP’s Editor-in-Chief Xiangwei Wang told Hong Kong-based broadcaster Phoenix TV on June 19 that Snowden had given the newspaper access on the condition that it withhold certain information until an agreed-upon time, or as Wang said, “until the dust settles.” Wang also told Phoenix TV at that time that SCMP would be releasing more information based on their interviews with Snowden in the next week or two.
Before taking the job with Booz Allen in March, Snowden had been in touch with Greenwald and documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, who filmed Greenwald's June 9 interview with Snowden in his Hong Kong hotel room. In a June 10 interview, Salon reporter Irin Carmon asked Poitras about “the implication people were drawing... that [Snowden] went to Booz Allen with the express intention of leaking this.” Poitras dismissed the implication as “absurd.”
“I didn’t know where he worked, I didn’t know he was NSA, I didn’t know how — nothing,” Poitras said. “There was no, like, Oh do you think you …, no nudging. It’s like the crazy correlations that the NSA does. There’s no connection here. We were contacted, we didn’t know what he was up to, and at some point he came forward with documents.”
Greenwald, too, rejected via Twitter suggestions that Snowden had taken the job at Booz Allen for the purpose of accessing information he could subsequently leak to the press. When Andrew Sullivan questioned the leak timeline in a post on his blog The Dish, Greenwald accused Sullivan of “channeling [a] moronic conspiracy theory,” insisting that Snowden has been working for the NSA since 2009 (which is likely correct – some of Snowden's previous employers were NSA contractors.)
Snowden was also in touch with the Washington Post, which published just ahead of the Guardian four of the 41 slides Snowden provided of a Power Point presentation detailing the NSA's PRISM program. Earlier in June, the Post's Barton Gellman published a story recounting his correspondence with Snowden, and said that the whistleblower had also attempted to put at least one condition on the Post's reporting in exchange for interviews and information. Gellman and the Post refused to meet Snowden's condition that the newspaper publish the entire PRISM Power Point presentation within 72 hours of receiving it. Both the Post and the Guardian published only four of the slides.
Greenwald dismissed the significance of Snowden's admission to SCMP in an interview with the Washington Post Monday afternoon, insisting that he did not know that Snowden was working for the NSA until May, and only learned this month that Snowden was working specifically for Booz Allen.
“Anybody who wants to accuse me or anyone at the Guardian of aiding and abetting Snowden has the obligation to point to any specific evidence to support that accusation,” Greenwald told the Post's Greg Sargent. “Otherwise they’re just spouting reckless innuendo.”
IBTimes reached out to Greenwald repeatedly after the story first broke in the Guardian, and did not receive a response.
Ellen Killoran is the Media & Culture Editor at IBTimes. She previously contributed to The L Magazine, Brooklyn Magazine, and The Daily, and co-produced the HBO...