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Former CIA worker says he leaked U.S. surveillance data
The CIA sent him to Geneva in 2007; he had diplomatic cover and clearance giving him access to classified documents.
But he grew disillusioned there by the tactics he saw agency operatives use in trying to recruit a man to spy on Swiss banks, and he began thinking for the first time about exposing government secrets.
He temporized, however, fearing that his disclosures might endanger someone, and hoping that the election of Barack Obama might bring greater transparency to government.
But after taking a job for a private contractor, and being assigned to an NSA facility on a military base in Japan, he said he watched "as Obama advanced the very policies that I thought would be reined in," adding, "I got hardened."
He has gradually embraced, with ever-greater fervor, the causes of transparency and Internet freedom.
The Guardian said he had been fully transparent himself when challenged by its reporters to confirm the authenticity of the materials he provided. It said he offered his Social Security number, even his CIA identity number.
Snowden said that he admired both Daniel Ellsberg, the source of the Pentagon Papers, and Bradley Manning, the Army private who has acknowledged providing huge troves of government documents in the WikiLeaks scandal.
But he drew a contrast, saying that "I carefully evaluated every single document I disclosed to ensure that each was legitimately in the public interest." He said that "harming people isn't my goal. Transparency is."
Snowden said that he now hopes he might be granted asylum someplace - possibly Iceland - but that he is prepared for whatever happens.
"I feel satisfied that this was all worth it," he said. "I have no regrets."