“As I advanced and learned the dangerous truth behind the U.S. policies that seek to develop secret, irresistible powers and concentrate them in the hands of an unaccountable few, human weakness haunted me,” Snowden wrote in the note, which would accompany the first documents he leaked. “As I worked in secret to resist them, selfish fear questioned if the stone thrown by a single man could justify the loss of everything he loves.
“I have come to my answer.”
Snowden, who identified himself Sunday as the main source behind recent disclosures of sweeping government surveillance programs, worked for years inside the U.S. intelligence community. As he did so, he said, he became disillusioned with American government policies.
In an interview, he told The Washington Post that he could not “recall a single moment” in which his desire to violate his oath to protect top-secret information coalesced into the final decision to reveal that information publicly.
“It was more of a slow realization that presidents could openly lie to secure the office and then break public promises without consequence,” he said.
According to campaign finance reports, Snowden made a $250 donation to Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign in March of that year, and gave another $250 in May. Paul has been a critic of excessive government intrusion.
Snowden, a soft-spoken “infrastructure analyst” with ties to the Washington area, said he advanced in the intelligence world through his understanding of computer programming and the Internet, though he has no visible Internet presence himself.
With wire glasses, short, dark hair and a thin goatee, he maintains an academic look. Yet he never completed his coursework at a community college in Maryland, only later obtaining his GED — an unusually light education for someone who would advance in the intelligence ranks.
For the past several months, Snowden was stationed in Hawaii, working as an NSA contractor for the firm Booz Allen Hamilton. It was there, at the NSA offices, he told the Guardian newspaper, that he copied the last set of documents he intended to disclose, told his NSA supervisors he needed time off for treatment for epilepsy, and boarded a flight to Hong Kong.
A storm has followed him. The Obama administration said Sunday that the NSA has asked the Justice Department to investigate the leak. Booz Allen condemned its erstwhile employee, and said Snowden had worked for them for less than three months.
“News reports that this individual has claimed to have leaked classified information are shocking, and if accurate, this action represents a grave violation of the code of conduct and core values of our firm,’’ the company said, vowing to work closely with authorities in the investigation.