Edward Joseph Snowden, 29, knew full well the risks he had undertaken and the awesome powers that would soon be arrayed to hunt for him… Snowden was spilling some of the most sensitive secrets of a surveillance apparatus he had grown to detest. By late last month, he believed he was already “on the X” — exposure imminent.
“I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions, and that the return of this information to the public marks my end,” he wrote in early May, before we had our first direct contact. He warned that even journalists who pursued his story were at risk until they published.
The U.S. intelligence community, he wrote, “will most certainly kill you if they think you are the single point of failure that could stop this disclosure and make them the sole owner of this information”…
I asked him, at the risk of estrangement, how he could justify exposing intelligence methods that might benefit U.S. adversaries.
“Perhaps I am naive,” he replied, “but I believe that at this point in history, the greatest danger to our freedom and way of life comes from the reasonable fear of omniscient State powers kept in check by nothing more than policy documents.” The steady expansion of surveillance powers, he wrote, is “such a direct threat to democratic governance that I have risked my life and family for it.”
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