June 16, 2013

Snowden's life surrounded by spycraft

The Associated Press

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This photo provided by The Guardian Newspaper in London shows Edward Snowden, who worked as a contract employee at the National Security Agency, on Sunday, June 9, 2013, in Hong Kong. The Guardian identified Snowden as a source for its reports on intelligence programs after he asked the newspaper to do so on Sunday. (AP Photo/The Guardian)

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This Sept. 19, 2007, file photo, shows the National Security Agency building at Fort Meade, Md. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

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But he also touched on questions of security and privacy.

In one October 2003 thread, he asked so many questions about how to hide the identity of his computer server that another discussion participant asked why he was being so paranoid.

Snowden's answer: "Patriot Act. If they misinterpret that actions I perform, I could be a cyb4r terrorist and that would be very ... bad."

In another post that fall, he mulled the politics of personal identity.

"This is entirely dependent on the individual -- as is the definition of freedom. Freedom isn't a word the can be (pardon) freely defined," he wrote. "The saying goes, 'Live free or die,' I believe. That seems to intimate a conditional dependence on freedom as a requirement for happiness."

In that discussion, Snowden mentioned that he had identified himself as a Buddhist in paperwork he filled out for the Army. And in May 2004, he enlisted, with aspirations of becoming a Green Beret.

"I wanted to fight in the Iraq war because I felt like I had an obligation as a human being to help free people from oppression," he told The Guardian. "Most of the people training us seemed pumped up about killing Arabs, not helping anyone."

Snowden reported to Fort Benning, Ga., in June 2004, where "he attempted to qualify to become a special forces soldier but did not complete the requisite training and was administratively discharged," said an Army spokesman, Col. David H. Patterson Jr.

Snowden left the Army at the end of that September. He mentioned on the tech forum that he was discharged after breaking both legs in accident, a detail the Army could not confirm.

He returned home, enrolling again in classes at the community college and working through most of 2005 as a security guard at the University of Maryland's Center for Advanced Study of Language, a mile off campus. The center, affiliated with the Department of Defense, says on its LinkedIn page that it was founded after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to help the intelligence community improve language preparedness. But a university spokesman said the center's work is not classified.

When he went public with his decision to leak the NSA's documents, Snowden told interviewers that he studied at Maryland, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Liverpool.

A Maryland spokesman, Crystal Brown, said Snowden did not take classes at the school's flagship campus. However, Robert Ludwig, a spokesman for the University of Maryland University College, which offers classes online and at military bases, said Snowden registered for one term in its Asia Division in the summer of 2009, but did not earn a certificate or degree.

Johns Hopkins said it had no record of Snowden taking classes. The only possibility, the school said, is that he might have enrolled at a private, for-profit entity that offered career training under the name Computer Career Institute at Johns Hopkins University. The university said it ended its relationship with the training school in 2009 and it had since shut down, making it impossible to check any records.

Liverpool said in a statement that Snowden had registered for an online masters' program in computer security in 2011, but never completed it.

Snowden has said that he was hired by the CIA to work on information technology security and in 2007 was assigned by the agency to work in Geneva, Switzerland. Anderson, Snowden's friend at the time, made the same assertion.

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