The British newspaper The Guardian identified the leaker behind its exposures of a vast U.S. surveillance program Sunday, at his request.
He is Edward Snowden, 29, a former technical assistant at the CIA and current employee of the military contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. He has been working at the National Security Agency for the last four years as an employee of various outside contractors, including Booz Allen and Dell.
“The individual responsible for one of the most significant leaks in U.S. political history ... will go down in history as one of America's most consequential whistleblowers, alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning,” the paper trumpeted.
The Guardian, after several days of interviews, is revealing his identity at his request, it said. From the moment he decided to disclose numerous top-secret documents to the public, Snowden was determined not to opt for the protection of anonymity. "I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong," he said.
“I intend to ask for asylum from any countries that believe in free speech and oppose the victimization of global privacy,” Snowden told the Washington Post, which has also published his leaks. The Guardian was the first to publicly identify Snowden. Both media organizations made his name public with his consent.
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“I’m not going to hide,” Snowden said Sunday afternoon. “Allowing the U.S. government to intimidate its people with threats of retaliation for revealing wrongdoing is contrary to the public interest.”
Snowden, who is currently in Hong Kong to take refuge from the U.S. retribution he expects, explains himself in a video interview with the Guardian's Glenn Greenwald here.
"Yes, I could be rendered by the CIA. I could have people come after me. Or any of the third-party partners. They work closely with a number of other nations. Or they could pay off the Triads. Any of their agents or assets," he said. "We have got a CIA station just up the road – the consulate here in Hong Kong – and I am sure they are going to be busy for the next week. And that is a concern I will live with for the rest of my life, however long that happens to be."
Asked if he expects to be accused of defecting to China, Snowden said the Chinese people are not America's enemy, and that Hong Kong, despite being under Chinese rule, is a bastion of free speech. He also said it is less susceptible to U.S. pressure than most countries.