The former security contractor who blew the whistle on the National Security Agency’s Prism program said he was holding off on leaking details about the cyber snooping activity in the hope that President Barack Obama’s re-election would put an end to the government’s “abusive programs.”
Snowden, who two weeks ago revealed to the Guardian details of how U.S. intelligence agencies are secretly empowered by law to compel American companies to release metadata on customer communications, is believed to be hiding out in Hong Kong. James Clapper, director of National Intelligence, admitted the existence of Prism but said the anti-terrorist surveillance program was not aimed at American citizens living in the U.S.
In his latest interview, Snowden said there is very little private information that intelligence agents cannot access.
In reality, he said, “if an NSA, FBI, CIA, DIA, etc., analyst has access to query raw SIGINT (signal intelligence) databases,” they can retrieve anything they want.
He said agents can obtain phone numbers, email, user identification, cell phone and handset I.D.s, and other data, because the restrictions are policy-based and “not technically based.”
For instance, he said, if an individual were targeted for investigation, “the security analysts gets it all…I.P.s, raw data, content, headers, attachments, everything.”