Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old former intelligence worker who leaked details of NSA data collection to journalists, first approached the Washington Post with his trove of information, The Post’s Barton Gellman reported on Sunday. But when the paper wouldn’t meet Snowden’s conditions, he went to The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald, who first published the story about the NSA collecting Verizon customers’ phone records. The Post did get the PRISM story in the end, and along with it Gellman’s rather thrilling account of dealing with his mysterious source, a former NSA analyst and Booz Allen Hamilton employee who used the code name Verax. Even over the course of his three-week conversation with reporters, Snowden seems to have changed his views on how he wanted to carry out his leak.
Gellman explains that Snowden insisted on a promise that the Post would publish, within 72 hours, a PowerPoint presentation about the PRISM Internet surveillance system. After the Post refused to guarantee what or when it would publish, Snowden “replied succinctly, ‘I regret that we weren’t able to keep this project unilateral.’ Shortly afterward he made contact with Glenn Greenwald of the British newspaper The Guardian.”
Snowden and Gellman continued their correspondence, and when it did run the PRISM story, the Post consulted with government officials about security risks, and published just four of the 41 slides Snowden had sought to make public.
Despite our previous dispute about publishing the PRISM document in full, Snowden said he did not intend to release a pile of unedited documents upon the world. “I don’t desire to enable the Bradley Manning argument that these were released recklessly and unreviewed,” he said.
But Snowden, who Gellman described as “capable of melodrama,” wrote during their correspondence that he didn’t necessarily expect to keep his freedom, saying, “There’s no saving me.” Snowden spoke with Gellman in his Hong Kong hotel room Sunday afternoon, so we know he was still at large then.
As we learn more about Snowden, the Associated Press provides more background on his account of how he prepared to become one of America’s highest-profile leakers. Snowden told The Guardian that he had left his job and his girlfriend in Hawaii on May 20, giving her a vague reason for his travel. The AP discovered that he and his girlfriend moved out of their Honolulu-area home on May 1, “leaving nothing behind,” because the landlord wanted to sell it. That’s not necessarily an inconsistency in Snowden’s account, but it highlights the fact that there are many more layers of this story yet to be peeled.
In other news, Booz Allen Hamilton is looking for a an information security engineer in Hawaii, if anybody knows someone.
Update: In keeping with Snowden’s wishes, Greenwald suggests the whistle-blower’s personal story will soon be overshadowed. This is probably the last thing the Obama administration wants to hear:
Update II: The Guardian’s Greenwald denies the order of events described by the Post, and claims he has been working with Snowden since February, possibly before Snowden started working at Booz Allen: