Edward Snowden, a former undercover CIA employee and tech specialist who went to work for Booz Allen Hamilton, claimed responsibility as the main source of the National Security Agency (NSA) leaks that shocked the country last week.

Snowden, 29, by revealing his role in the disclosures, has now opened himself up to the possibility of prosecution. Information that he provided to both The Washington Post and the UK's Guardian newspaper revealed that the U.S. government has surveillance programs in place that systematically keep tabs on the country’s citizens.

“I’m not going to hide,” Snowden told The Washington Post. “Allowing the U.S. government to intimidate its people with threats of retaliation for revealing wrongdoing is contrary to the public interest.

“Everyone everywhere now understands how bad things have gotten — and they’re talking about it. They have the power to decide for themselves whether they are willing to sacrifice their privacy to the surveillance state.”

In response to the unveiling of the NSA whistleblower, the intelligence community is reportedly “reviewing the damage" done by the leaks. It is unclear how the NSA and White House will ultimately proceed in response to Snowden’s actions. However, spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence Shawn Turner said, “Any person who has a security clearance knows that he or she has an obligation to protect classified information and abide by the law.”

By willingly fingering himself as the source of the leaks, Snowden has done something unprecedented – especially considering the breadth and depth of information he disclosed. “This is significant on a number of fronts: the scope, the range. It’s major, it’s major,” said John Rizzo, a former general counsel of the CIA. “And then to have him out himself . . . I can’t think of any previous leak case involving a CIA officer where the officer raised his hand and said, ‘I’m the guy.’”

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