In a 12-minute video interview with the Guardian in his room shortly before he vacated the hotel and went on the run, Snowden appears at times rather pleased with himself and, at others, scared for his life.
Snowden, who communicated with journalists using the codename ‘verax’, Latin for truthteller – calmly described his journey from high school dropout to well-paid internet intelligence expert with a diplomatic passport and top-level security clearance.
A neighbour described the Snowdens yesterday as ‘very respectable people’.
But not this 29-year-old geek who says his work as an undercover CIA computer administrator provided him with almost unlimited access to U. intelligence secrets and details about its surveillance programmes.
Far from waiting for the dust to settle on the stunning revelations about the National Security Agency’s snooping operation, he has jumped into the limelight, admitting the crime with an eagerness that has stunned espionage experts.
Insisting he wanted to fight the Iraq War because he felt he had an ‘obligation as a human being to help free people from oppression’, he joined the army in 2003 and began training the following year for the special forces.
Snowden went to work for the NSA as a security guard at one of its secret facilities at the University of Maryland.