WASHINGTON – When he was working in the intelligence community in 2009, Edward Snowden, the U.S. National Security Agency contractor who passed top-secret documents to journalists, appears to have had nothing but disdain for those who leaked classified information, the newspapers that printed their revelations and his current ally, the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, newly disclosed chat logs show.
Snowden, who used the online handle “TheTrueHOOHA,” was particularly upset by a January 2009 New York Times article that reported on a covert program to subvert Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, according to the logs, which were published Wednesday by Ars Technica, a technology news website.
“They’re reporting classified (expletive),” Snowden wrote. “You don’t put that (expletive) in the NEWSPAPER.” At the time of the posting, in January 2009, Snowden was 25 and stationed in Geneva by the CIA.
“Are they TRYING to start a war?” he asked of The New York Times. “Jesus christ they’re like wikileaks.”
When Snowden burst into public view in the second week of June, he cast himself as a lonely crusader reconciled to capture and prison but determined to use what freedom he had left to expose what he said were omniscient U.S. surveillance powers that threatened individual privacy.
Although Snowden seems to have started out with a carefully considered plan to steal highly classified material and abscond to Hong Kong, he has since undertaken unscripted dodges to keep U.S. investigators at bay. The maneuvers have opened up the 30-year-old to charges that the idealism he first professed has given way to self-preservation.
Critical parts of Snowden’s biography remain opaque, particularly his entry into the intelligence community without even a high school diploma. He somehow made the jump from security guard at the federally funded University of Maryland Center for Advanced Study of Language, which conducts classified and unclassified research, to CIA recruit in 2007.
The CIA assigned him to Switzerland. In his commentary on his first taste of life abroad, he complained about bad hamburgers and intermissions in movies. “God I hate metric,” wrote Snowden on #arsificial, a channel on Ars Technica’s public Internet Relay Chat server. “Why can’t they use real numbers over here?”
Editors at Ars Technica said chats on #arsificial are not archived, but they obtained the logs involving Snowden from multiple, independent sources.
Snowden’s postings offer some glimpses into his political opinions. He admired Rep. Ron Paul — “dreamy” — supported Second Amendment gun rights and considered Social Security a crutch that should be eliminated. He called those who disagreed with him “retards.”
In the run-up to the 2008 election, he described Sen. Barack Obama’s opponent, Sen. John McCain, as an “excellent leader” and “a guy with real values.” Speaking of Obama, he said that “we need an idealist first and foremost.” He dismissed Hillary Rodham Clinton, Obama’s opponent in the Democratic primaries, as “a pox on the country.”
Snowden wondered how the anonymous sources could have disclosed classified information. “Those people should be shot in the balls,” he wrote.
There was only the faintest hint that Snowden was becoming disillusioned with the U.S. surveillance programs he would later reveal. “WE LOVE THAT TECHNOLOGY (EXPLETIVE),” he wrote in March 2009. “HELPS U.S. SPY ON OUR CITIZENS BETTER.”
Indeed, as he told Britain’s The Guardian in a videotaped interview this month, his disillusionment with his work as a systems analyst in the U.S. intelligence community was gradual.
“Over time that awareness of wrongdoing sort of builds up and you feel compelled to talk about” it, he said. “And the more you talk about, the more you’re ignored, the more you’re told it’s not a problem, until eventually you realize that these things need to be determined by the public and not by somebody who was simply hired by the government.”
In 2009, Snowden left the CIA to work for a private contractor and was based at an NSA facility in Japan. Three years later, he moved to Hawaii, where he again worked at NSA.
In March, Snowden took a position with the contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, apparently to maximize his access to classified material at the NSA. “My position with Booz Allen Hamilton granted me access to lists of machines all over the world the NSA hacked,” Snowden told the South China Morning Post in an interview in Hong Kong. “That is why I accepted that position.”