NSA whistleblower grew up in eastern NC town - WNCN: News, Weather

NSA whistleblower grew up in eastern NC town

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The Guardian identified Edward Snowden as a source for its reports on intelligence programs after he asked the newspaper to do so on Sunday. (AP Photo/The Guardian) The Guardian identified Edward Snowden as a source for its reports on intelligence programs after he asked the newspaper to do so on Sunday. (AP Photo/The Guardian)
ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. -

The man who admitted to leaking top secret information about National Security Agency programs has ties to a small eastern North Carolina community.

Edward Snowden, 29, allowed himself to be revealed in taped interviews with "The Guardian" newspaper Sunday as the source of disclosures about the U.S. government's secret surveillance programs, risking prosecution by the U.S. government.

Snowden, who once worked as a contractor at the NSA and the CIA, told media outlets the NSA was using "surveillance on innocent Americans."

Snowden lived in eastern N.C. town of Elizabeth City until he was 9 years old before his family moved to Maryland in 1992. He dropped out of high school and enlisted in the Army in 2003.

Norfolk, Va., NBC affiliate WAVY spoke to residents in the town who are calling Snowden a hero for his actions.

"If he's telling the truth about what he knew he should have told," Elizabeth City resident Fred Logsdon said. "He also should be able to live here in his country and not feel like he has to flee where he went off to."

Because Snowden's family moved from the area in the early '90s, no residents WAVY spoke with knew the family directly. Still, residents applauded Snowden for blowing the whistle on an NSA phone records monitoring program and an Internet scouring program that allows the NSA and FBI to tap directly into nine U.S. Internet companies to gather all Internet usage.

"I think he's a great guy," resident Michael Spivey said. "We should give him an award. He's a responsible citizen, and we should let people know when they are being wronged."

Snowden is currently in Hong Kong, hoping that Iceland grants his request for asylum. Glenn Greenwald of "The Guardian" said Monday that Snowden chose the semiautonomous Chinese region because he believed he wouldn't get a fair trial in his home country.

Snowden wants to remain out of the "clutches" of the U.S. government for as long as possible but is fully aware that he won't succeed," Greenwald said.

"I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions, and that the return of this information to the public marks my end," Snowden wrote to a Washington Post reporter in early May, before making his first direct contact.

The U.S. intelligence community, he wrote, "will most certainly kill you if they think you are the single point of failure that could stop this disclosure and make them the sole owner of this information."

The spokesman for the Director of National Intelligence Shawn Turner said intelligence officials are "currently reviewing the damage that has been done by these recent disclosures."

Snowden could face many years in prison for releasing classified information if he is successfully extradited from Hong Kong, according to Mark Zaid, a national security lawyer who represents whistleblowers.

Hong Kong, though part of China, is partly autonomous and has a Western-style legal system that is a legacy from the territory's past as a British colony. A U.S.-Hong Kong extradition treaty has worked smoothly in the past. Hong Kong extradited three al-Qaeda suspects to the U.S. in 2003, for example.

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