Snowden explains decision to leak secrets

Snowden explains decision to leak secrets

Summary: Edward Snowden says dishonest comments to Congress by the US chief of national intelligence pushed him over the edge and prompted him to leak a trove of national security documents.

TOPICS: Security, Privacy

In a wide-ranging interview with Wired magazine over several days from Moscow, Edward Snowden said he had been troubled for years by the activities of the National Security Agency but that national intelligence chief James Clapper's testimony prompted him to act.

The former NSA contractor said he made his decision after reading in March 2013 about Clapper telling a Senate committee that the NSA does "not wittingly" collect information on millions of Americans.

Special Feature

IT Security in the Snowden Era

IT Security in the Snowden Era

The Edward Snowden revelations have rocked governments, global businesses, and the technology world. When we look back a decade from now, we expect this to be the biggest story of 2013. Here is our perspective on the still-unfolding implications along with IT security and risk management best practices.

"I think I was reading it in the paper the next day, talking to coworkers, saying, can you believe this...?"

Snowden told journalist James Bamford he had been troubled by other discoveries, including NSA spying on the pornography-viewing habits of political radicals.

"It's much like how the FBI tried to use Martin Luther King's infidelity to talk him into killing himself," he said. "We said those kinds of things were inappropriate back in the '60s. Why are we doing that now?"

Snowden also was disturbed by the NSA's effort to massively speed up data collection with a secret data storage facility in Bluffdale, Utah, which scanned billions of phone calls, faxes, emails, computer-to-computer data transfers, and text messages from around the world.

He put off his plan to leak NSA secrets at the time of the election of President Barack Obama, hoping for a more open government. But he became disenchanted with the president, and by 2013 was ready to spill the secrets he had acquired.

After Clapper's testimony to Congress, Snowden said his colleagues did not appear shocked, but he was concerned he was getting in too deep in an "evil" system.

"It's like the boiling frog," he says, in a reference to the fable of a frog placed in cold water who fails to realize the water is heating up gradually, until it is too late.

"You get exposed to a little bit of evil, a little bit of rule-breaking, a little bit of dishonesty, a little bit of deceptiveness, a little bit of disservice to the public interest, and you can brush it off, you can come to justify it," he told the magazine.

Topics: Security, Privacy

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Leaked secrets that harmed US Citizens

    He didn't just expose wrong doings by the US Government, he went wayyyyyy beyond that and exposed massive amounts of data he harvested that there is NO WAY ON EARTH he could have pawed through. The fact is, he just grabbed as much as he could and gave it away. He did not consider what it was, he considered only being some sort of hero.

    Success for Snowden, many think he is a hero.
    • Snowden did the right thing

      He revealed a massive betrayal by the American government.

      He responsibly gave the material to journalists instead of holding it himself.
  • 15 minutes over

    Does anyone care? The 15 minutes was over a long time ago.
    Buster Friendly
  • While I respect James Bamford...

    ...I don't think he's done a lot of journalistic work, recently. His proper title is "Author".
    John L. Ries
  • Anarchy at its finest?

    A day is approaching when everyone will think it is his duty to rule the roost.
    • Activist...

      ...used to be used in an almost insulting way. Now it's become a badge of honor, for better or for worse.
      luke mayson
  • And where he lives now...

    Snowden sought sanctuary in Russia - a country which, of course, we must assume has never spied on its own citizens!
    Ian Sargent
  • Land of the Free

    I dont think so. The people who wrote the bill of rights and the declaration of independance must be very alarmed to see how the country has gone in the 200 odd years since its birth. All those lofty sentiments trodden into the dust by a pack of swine.
  • Neo-libertarian flake

    All he's been doing is expose tradecraft, most if not all of which is done by all modern and semi-modern countries in one way or the other. His explanations and timing make no sense if he was a genuine whistleblower trying to change the laws that not only allow the NSA to do what it's been doing but requires it. I personally only found a couple of his more gossipy stuff of any real interest or at "newsy."

    Whatever, at least he stimulated some sort of discussion of government snooping, however confused, nonsensical, and/or besides the point.