Former NSA contractor tried proper channels to raise concerns about government surveillance programs before turning into a whistleblower. Edward wrote to the European Parliament that he reported policy or legal issues related to snooping programs to at least ten officials, but since he was a contractor, he had no legal avenue to do anything. All of those officials ignored him.
Edward Snowden confirmed he had reported spying programs to more than ten distinct officials, but none of them took any action to address his concerns. The Snowden’s problem was that he wasn’t protected by American whistleblower laws, and wouldn’t have been protected from retaliation and legal sanction for revealing classified data either.
Last summer, President Obama said that there were “other avenues” available to a whistleblower like Snowden, whose “conscience was stirred” and who believed he needed to question government actions. Nevertheless, the president seems to be unaware that the laws didn’t apply to contractors, only government employees.
Instead Edward was just warned not to rock the boat, threatened with the sort of retaliation former NSA whistleblowers like Wiebe, Binney, and Drake faced. All of them were subject to intense scrutiny and the threat of criminal prosecution.
Some believe this issue should be someone else’s problem – even the highest-ranking officials Snowden told about his concerns failed to recall when an official complaint resulted in the shutdown of an unlawful program, only saying that “there clearly was a unanimous desire to avoid being associated with such a complaint in any form”.
In response, the National Security Agency disputed his account, claiming that after extensive investigation, including interviews with Snowden’s former NSA supervisors and co-workers, they didn’t find any evidence to support his claims that he tried to bring these matters to anyone’s attention.