Edward Snowden Just Got a New Job

The former NSA contractor is positioning himself to be active long after his leaks end.

National Journal
Dustin Volz
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Dustin Volz
Jan. 14, 2014, 11:42 a.m.

Former Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency con­tract­or Ed­ward Snowden might be a U.S. fu­git­ive for the rest of his life, but that small de­tail isn’t stop­ping him from join­ing the board of a non­profit group cofoun­ded by Daniel Ells­berg, the one­time leak­er of the Vi­et­nam War-era Pentagon Pa­pers.

The Free­dom of the Press Found­a­tion an­nounced Snowden’s ap­point­ment Tues­day to a board of dir­ect­ors that already in­cludes Glenn Gre­en­wald and Laura Poitras, two of the journ­al­ists to whom Snowden en­trus­ted his secret doc­u­ments. The group’s board also in­cludes act­or John Cu­s­ack.

“He is the quint­es­sen­tial Amer­ic­an whistle-blower, and a per­son­al hero of mine,” Ells­berg said. “Leaks are the lifeblood of the re­pub­lic and, for the first time, the Amer­ic­an pub­lic has been giv­en the chance to de­bate demo­crat­ic­ally the NSA’s mass sur­veil­lance pro­grams.”

In a state­ment, Snowden called the vo­lun­teer op­por­tun­ity to serve on the board and work with Ells­berg “tre­mend­ously hum­bling.”

“The un­con­sti­tu­tion­al gath­er­ing of the com­mu­nic­a­tions re­cords of every­one in Amer­ica threatens our most ba­sic rights, and the pub­lic should have a say in wheth­er or not that con­tin­ues,” Snowden said. “Thanks to the work of our free press, today we do, and if the NSA won’t an­swer to Con­gress, they’ll have to an­swer to the news­pa­pers, and ul­ti­mately, the people.”

Snowden’s place­ment sig­nals a pos­sible fu­ture for the 30-year-old fu­git­ive, who is be­lieved to still be resid­ing in Rus­sia after be­ing gran­ted tem­por­ary asylum. Like Ells­berg be­fore him, he is po­s­i­tion­ing him­self to be­come a life-long open-gov­ern­ment act­iv­ist. Snowden’s fans have re­peatedly at­temp­ted to com­pare him to Ells­berg, whose dis­clos­ure of the Pentagon Pa­pers in 1971 de­tailed a secret and con­tro­ver­sial his­tory of the gov­ern­ment’s for­eign policy de­cisions dur­ing the Vi­et­nam War.

Be­gin­ning in June of last year, Snowden’s leaks de­tail­ing the NSA’s vast data-col­lec­tion pro­grams promp­ted a seem­ingly end­less tor­rent of ex­posés in ma­jor pub­lic­a­tions around the world. The dis­clos­ures not only re­veal the size of the NSA’s phone and In­ter­net metadata drag­net, but the at-times cava­lier ar­rog­ance with which agency ana­lysts boast about their sur­veil­lance muscle.

Snowden’s new gig is sure to fur­ther an­noy his crit­ics. Many law­makers have at­temp­ted to vil­i­fy Snowden as a trait­or whose leaks have threatened na­tion­al se­cur­ity.

The NSA has en­dured end­less scru­tiny since pub­lic­a­tions began re­port­ing on a de­luge of secret doc­u­ments provided by Snowden, but Pres­id­ent Obama and law­makers haven’t yet ini­ti­ated any sub­stant­ive changes to the agency’s sur­veil­lance pro­grams. Obama will ad­dress NSA re­form this Fri­day and is widely ex­pec­ted to an­nounce at least some meas­ures of re­form, al­though it re­mains un­clear just how much he in­tends to change.

In Decem­ber, Snowden de­clared in an in­ter­view with The Wash­ing­ton Post that his mis­sion was “already ac­com­plished.”

“I already won,” Snowden said then. “As soon as the journ­al­ists were able to work, everything that I had been try­ing to do was val­id­ated.”

Snowden will of­fi­cially join the found­a­tion’s board next month.

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