Edward Snowden, NSA leaker, reportedly in Hong Kong (complete coverage)

Edward Snowden, the former CIA employee and National Security Agency contractor who revealed himself as the source of documents describing the extensive scope of U.S. digital surveillance operations, has disappeared, the Associated Press reports. He fled to Hong Kong, and a newspaper there, the South China Morning Post, published an interview with him in which he said he plans to stay there. This is a summary of The Post’s coverage of Snowden today. For more on what he revealed, continue reading here.

Timothy Lee writes that Snowden, who has had an unconventional career in the intelligence community after dropping out of high school and enlisting in the Army, is part of a pattern of programmers whose worldview seems to require challenging authority:

The Silicon Valley investor Paul Graham has argued that the same personality traits that make people good at programming also cause them to have a disobedient attitude toward authority figures and social conventions. These programmers, who often describe themselves as hackers, are experts at examining complex systems and finding ways to make them work better. They tend to think about society as just another complex system in need of optimization, and this sometimes leads them to conclusions starkly at odds with conventional wisdom.

Timothy Lee

Snowden is especially similar to Bradley Manning, who is on trial now for making hundreds of thousands of classified documents public, and the pattern has intelligence officials worried:

Neither has a college degree or extensive academic training in computer science. And yet both were technically savvy, able to navigate sensitive computer networks and smuggle classified files. The back-to-back breaches — seen by many as the most significant in decades — have forced U.S. intelligence officials to examine whether the cases are isolated in scope or part of a new category of exposure emerging at the edges of classified U.S. networks . . . “At this point, we’re still looking at this as an anomaly,” a senior U.S. intelligence official said. But he said a damage assessment ordered by Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. is broad in scope, focused largely on the implications of a case in which highly sensitive materials were somehow within the grasp of a contractor who moved through a series of low-ranking jobs for the CIA and the NSA. Snowden and Manning both took advantage of access to computer systems that expanded exponentially in the aftermath of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, partly in an effort to make critical information available across agencies.

Greg Miller

Meanwhile, the blog of Snowden’s girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, and interviews with their friends and neighbors revealed more about his personal life:

For a 29-year-old who made his living in the digital world, Snowden has left remarkably few online traces. But as reclusive and private as he was, his longtime girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, 28, who moved with him to Hawaii last year, was outgoing and expressive. Writing in a blog that has vanished from public view, Mills, a native of Laurel, told of having to “kidnap” Snowden and “force a little adventure” on him to get him to join friends on a hike to a waterfall . . . In her postings, she described swing dancing and pole dancing at venues in Hawaii, and being alone for two weeks starting in late March because Snowden was headed to the mainland for a two-week business trip.Friends said Mills was completely unaware of Snowden’s decision to leak classified records detailing surveillance programs through which the United States collects reams of e-mails, phone records and electronic data.

Carol Leonnig and Julie Tate

Snowden will only be able to remain in Hong Kong if he avoids extradition. U.S. officials have called for his prosecution, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who called him “a traitor,” and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who said that Snowden is a coward.

Watch an interview Snowden gave recently from a hotel in Hong Kong, below:

U.S. defense contractor Edward Snowden discusses his motivation behind the NSA leak and why he is revealing himself as the source behind the major story. (Courtesy of Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald)
Max Ehrenfreund is a blogger on the Financial desk and writes for Know More and Wonkblog.
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