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Edward Snowden, NSA PRISM whistleblower, speaks out against US government surveillance programs (VIDEO)

Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old employee of defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, has come forward as the source of recent leaks about US security agencies' spy programs.

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Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who leaked top secret documents revealing a vast surveillance program by the US government to the Guardian newspaper. The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald interviewed Snowden in a hotel room in Hong Kong and released the video on Sunday June 10, 2013. (YouTube/Screengrab)

There's a job opening at the defense consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. It may or may not be seeking a replacement for Edward Snowden, 29, the whistleblower who exposed the National Security Agency's vast surveillance program that collected the phone records of millions of people and retrieved personal information from the world's largest tech firms.

Snowden worked for the NSA for the last four years as an employee of outside contracting firms like Dell and, most recently, in the Hawaii office of Booz Allen.

The Guardian said that it was revealing Snowden's name at his request after days of interviews with him in Hong Kong, where he fled last month after passing the British newspaper details of the US government's data-gathering activities.

"I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong," Snowden told the Guardian, which said he would go down in history as one of the world's most important whistleblowers.

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Snowden said that the US government was stepping up its domestic spying and that the public should know about it. He claimed the records kept by various intelligence agencies could easily be used against innocent people.

Snowden, who had a girlfriend, a stable career and a good income, said that he was willing to give all of it up because he believes the US government is trampling on privacy and internet freedom. "I'm willing to sacrifice all of that because I can't in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they're secretly building," he told the Guardian.

The whistleblower, who had previously worked for the CIA before quitting to work for private contractors in 2009, said that he initially believed in what he was doing. Things changed, he said, while working under diplomatic cover in Geneva, Switzerland.

In his interview, he describes an incident in 2007 in which the CIA lured in a Swiss banker to become an informant. Agents got the banker drunk and then encouraged him to drive home. He was caught by police and the agents helped secure his release, thereby gaining his trust.

Snowden thought things would change with the election of Barack Obama, but he said America's current president kept many of the same policies as his predecessor.

More from GlobalPost: PRISM, secret US government spying program, mines data from Google, Facebook and others

Nearly a week after the leaks were published, Snowden said he has no regrets but doesn't expect to return to the US.

"I think the sense of outrage that has been expressed is justified. It has given me hope that, no matter what happens to me, the outcome will be positive for America," he told the Guardian.

"I do not expect to see home again, though that is what I want."

Civil Beat, an investigative news website based in Hawaii, visited the former home of Snowden in Waipahu, a small town outside of Honolulu. The home was empty and for sale - Snowden having fled to Hong Kong on May 20. It is unclear if he fled along with his girlfriend.

The Guardian pointed out that Snowden's choice to flee to Hong Kong is a gamble. Hong Kong has an extradition treaty with the US but can refuse to hand over fugitives in cases of political offenses.

That clause is complicated by the veto power of Beijing, which could deem that Snowden harms China's "defense, foreign affairs or essential public interest or policy."

Snowden said that he hopes to find asylum in Iceland eventually — a country, he believes, that shares his values of internet freedom.

Icelandic lawmaker Birgitta Jonsdottir and Smari McCarthy, executive director of the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative, have issued a statement vowing to help Snowden get asylum, Forbes reported Sunday evening. 

Snowden's last employer, Booz Allen Hamilton, released a statement on Sunday confirming his role there and calling the leaks a "grave violation."

Booz Allen can confirm that Edward Snowden, 29, has been an employee of our firm for less than 3 months, assigned to a team in Hawaii. 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. We will work closely with our clients and authorities in their investigation of this matter.

A petition to pardon Edward Snowden was started Sunday on the White House website. 

It needs to reach 100,000 signatures by July 9, 2013 to receive an official White House response. By Sunday evening there were nearly 5,000 signatures.

 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/130609/edward-snowden-nsa-prism-whistleblower-speaks--0