The Geeks Who Leak

By Michael Scherer, Time - June 13, 2013

The 21st century mole demands no payments for his secrets. He sees himself instead as an idealist, a believer in individual sovereignty and freedom from tyranny. Chinese and Russian spooks will not tempt him. Rather, it's the bits and bytes of an online political philosophy that attract his imagination, a hacker mentality founded on message boards in the 1980s, honed in chat rooms in the '90s and matured in recent online neighborhoods like Reddit and 4chan. He believes above all that information wants to be free, that privacy is sacred and that he has a responsibility to defend both ideas.

"The public needs to decide whether these programs and policies are right or wrong," said Edward Joseph Snowden, the 29-year-old former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor who admitted on June 6 to one of the most significant thefts of highly classified secrets in U.S. history. The documents he turned over to the press revealed a massive program to compile U.S. telephone records into a database for antiterrorism and counterintelligence investigations. Another program, called Prism, has given the NSA access to records at major online providers like Google, Facebook and Microsoft to search information on foreign suspects with court approval. The secret program has been under way for seven years.

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