Edward Snowden revealed that dishonest comments to Congress by U.S. national intelligence chief James Clapper caused him to leak a flood of national security documents. Snowden made the revelation in a detailed interview with Wired magazine over several days from Moscow.
Snowden told the magazine he was troubled for years by the activities of the National Security Agency. However, he didn’t decide to act on his worries until Clapper’s testimony in front of Congress.
The former NSA contractor decided to act after reading in March 2013 about Clapper telling a Senate committee the NSA doesn’t “wittingly” collect information on millions of Americans. As Snowden soon revealed, Clapper was not telling the truth.
Snowden recalled, “I think I was reading it in the paper the next day, talking to coworkers, saying, can you believe this…?”
The NSA whistleblower also told journalist James Bamford that he was troubled by other discoveries he made while working as a contractor to the agency, including how the NSA spies on the pornography-viewing habits of political radicals. Snowden stated:
“It’s much like how the FBI tried to use Martin Luther King’s infidelity to talk him into killing himself. We said those kinds of things were inappropriate back in the ’60s. Why are we doing that now?”
Along with explaining his reasons for becoming a leaker, Edward Snowden also revealed it was the NSA, not Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who was responsible for an internet outage in Syria in 2012.
While the revelation is certainly interesting, TechCrunch questioned its accuracy, calling it “more flimsy than past revelations.” Still, the site notes that other seemingly “fantastical” claims made by Snowden have turned out to be true.
Following the Syria revelation, which was told to him by an intelligence officer familiar with TAO, a division of NSA hackers, Snowden discovered an automated system that responds to cyberthreats, known as MonsterMind.
Snowden explained to Wired magazine that the system’s automated nature is dangerous, because cyber attacks can be “spoofed.” If that happens, an automatic response could hit the wrong target. The NSA whistleblower apparently “views MonsterMind as the ultimate threat to privacy” because it requires huge amounts of communications data.
He added that to analyze “all traffic flows,” you must “[intercept] all traffic flows.” An effort like MonsterMind would, therefore, be a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
Snowden apparently put off revealing NSA secrets at the time of President Barack Obama’s election, because he hoped for a more open government. However, he became disenchanted with the new president and was ready to spill the agency’s secrets by 2013. When his colleagues didn’t appear shocked by Clapper’s testimony, Snowden was concerned and decided it was time to make his revelation.
Edward Snowden was recently granted a three-year visa in Russia that allows him to live and work in the country.