POSTED: Monday, June 10, 2013 - 7:00am
UPDATED: Monday, June 10, 2013 - 7:03am
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — We now have a name and a face behind the man who says he exposed the National Security Agency's secret surveillance programs.
Edward Snowden claims you need to know what the government is up to, but officials say he's putting the nation at risk.
NBC hasn't confirmed it, but Edward Snowden says he's the man who leaked classified information about the government's secret surveillance programs.
The twenty-nine year old analyst works for a defense contractor in Hawaii. He used to work for the CIA.
Snowden says he risked his life going public because he believes the government's surveillance of phone calls and emails went too far.
"I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge, to even the President if I had a personal email," said the Infrastructure Analyst for Booze Allen Hamilton.
Snowden revealed his identity to Britain's Guardian Newspaper. They broke the story.
"Every time there is a whistle-blower, somebody who exposes government wrongdoing, the tactic of the government is to try and demonize them as a traitor," said Glenn Greenwald, "The Guardian Newspaper.
Snowden says he's hiding out in a Hong Kong hotel room and fears the CIA may come after him. "That's a fear I'll live under for the rest of my life, however long that happens to be," says Snowden.
The Director of National Intelligence calls the leak reckless and says it put national security at risk.
"As we speak - they are going to school and learning how we do this. And so that's why it potentially has - can render - great damage to our intelligence capabilities," said Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
On Capitol Hill, lawmakers are debating how much Americans should know about how the government tracks terrorists. "The American people ought to know it, we ought to have a discussion about it," said Senator Mark Udall, Colorado.
"Part of our obligation is keeping America safe. Human intelligence isn't going to do it," said Senator Dianne Feinstein, California.
Some lawmakers who've been briefed on these programs for years - and disturbed by them, have been waiting for this to come out.