A former CIA employee and NSA contractor named Edward Snowden identified himself as the source of the the serial revelations of classified documents concerning U.S. intelligence surveillance activities that were disclosed last week.
“I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” he told The Guardian newspaper.
“I think that the public is owed an explanation of the motivations behind the people who make these [unauthorized] disclosures that are outside of the democratic model,” he told interviewer Glenn Greenwald in Hong Kong, where he has evidently taken refuge.
“When you are subverting the power of government– that’s a fundamentally dangerous thing to democracy.”
“I’m willing to go on the record to defend the authenticity [of these disclosures]. This is the truth. This is what’s happening. You should decide whether we need to be doing this,” he said of his disclosures.
In the history of unauthorized disclosures of classified information, a voluntary admission of having committed such disclosures is the exception, not the norm. And it confers a degree of dignity on the action. Yet it stops short of a full acceptance of responsibility. That would entail surrendering to authorities and accepting the legal consequences of “subverting the power of government” and carrying out “a fundamentally dangerous thing to democracy.”
There are occasions when breaching restrictions on classified information may be necessary and appropriate, suggested Judge T.S. Ellis, III of the Eastern District of Virginia in a June 2009 sentencing hearing for Lawrence Franklin, who pleaded guilty to disclosing classified information in the “AIPAC” case. But in order to reconcile an unauthorized disclosure with the rule of law, he said, it must be done openly.
“I don’t have a problem with people doing that [disclosing classified information to the press] if they are held accountable for it…,” Judge Ellis said. “One might hope that, for example, someone might have the courage to do something that would break the law if it meant they’re the savior of the country; but then one has to take the consequences, because the rule of law is so important.”
“Simply because you believe that something that’s going on that’s classified should be revealed to the press and to the public, so that the public can know that its government is doing something you think is wrong, that doesn’t justify it. Now, you may want to go ahead and do it, but you have to stand up and take the consequences,” Judge Ellis said then.