Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden tried to go through official channels to raise concerns about government snooping programmes before turning into a whistleblower.
In testimony to the European Parliament, Snowden wrote that he reported policy or legal issues related to spying programs to more than 10 officials, but since he was a contractor, he had no legal avenue to do anything. The officials ignored him of course.
According to the Guardian, Snowden said that he had reported these clearly problematic programmes to more than ten distinct officials, none of whom took any action to address them.
Part of the problem was that he was not protected by US whistleblower laws, and would not have been protected from retaliation and legal sanction for revealing classified information.
In an August news conference, President Obama claimed that there were “other avenues” available to someone like Snowden “whose conscience was stirred and thought that they needed to question government actions.”
However, someone appears to have forgotten to tell the president that the laws did not apply to contractors, only government employees.
Instead Snowden was warned not to ‘rock the boat,’ for fear of the sort of retaliation that befell former NSA whistleblowers like Wiebe, Binney, and Drake. All three of those men, he notes, were subject to intense scrutiny and the threat of criminal prosecution.
Others said the matter should be someone else’s problem. Even the highest-ranking officials he told about his concerns could not recall when an official complaint resulted in the shutdown of an unlawful programme, he testified, “but there was a unanimous desire to avoid being associated with such a complaint in any form”.
The NSA disputes his account, previously telling The Washington Post that, “after extensive investigation, including interviews with his former NSA supervisors and co-workers, we have not found any evidence to support Snowden’s contention that he brought these matters to anyone’s attention”.