Video: NSA whistleblower speaks, flees to Hong Kong

The man who leaked details of the secret National Security Agency’s Prism program monitoring the electronic communications of American citizens says he’s no Bradley Manning – that he was more discrete about what he released.

The source of last week’s stories in the British-based Guardian, which broke the news of the program as well as the Washingon Post, was identified as Edward Joseph Snowden, a 29-year-old ex-undercover employee with the CIA making $200,000 a year for intelligence and defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, an NSA contractor.

snowden He acknowledges similarities between his own case and the case of Manning, the Army private whose court martial began last week on charges he was the source of the massive leak of classified government files in 2010 to the WikiLeaks Internet site.

But the Guardian report said Snowden views his own actions differently.

“I carefully evaluated every single document I disclosed to ensure that each was legitimately in the public interest,” he said in the Guardian report.

“There are all sorts of documents that would have made a big impact that I didn’t turn over, because harming people isn’t my goal. Transparency is.”

The Washington Post reported Sunday that Snowden said he acted because President Obama has failed to keep his pledge of conducting “the most transparent administration in history.”

He said high officials lack a sense of accountability to the American public. He said that started with the program’s beginnings under the Bush administration, but had continued over the past five years. No single incident spurred his decision, he said.

“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 the Post.

Snowden also said he hoped the disclosure could spur a legal action against the program.

Separately on Sunday, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said he planned to file a lawsuit to force the NSA to halt the program.

In February, the Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit over the program filed by Amnesty International and others because those suing could not prove they had been among those under surveillance.

According to the Guardian, Snowden made $200,000 a year working in digital security for the Booz Allen Hamilton, a defense and intelligence contractor with the NSA.

He was raised in Elizabeth City, N.C., according to the Guardian, and has a high school GED. The Guardian said he enlisted in the Army but had to leave after breaking both legs while in Special Forces Training.

He started working for the NSA as a security guard at the University of Maryland, then went to work for the CIA in technical intelligence because of his skill with computers, the Guardian said. He left the CIA in 2009, the report said.

He was living in Hawaii when he decided to leak the program, and is now living in Hong Kong to avoid prosecution by the United States government, the Guardian reported.

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