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Edward Snowden Might Have Had No Choice but to Leak to the Media

The New Yorker Festival 2014 - Edward Snowden Interviewed by Jane MayerThe New Yorker Festival 2014 - Edward Snowden Interviewed by Jane Mayer
Edward Snowden, interviewed by Jane Mayer during The New Yorker Festival in 2014.Photograph by Bryan Bedder — Getty Images for The New Yorker

Edward Snowden may have had no choice but to jump official protocol, and leak the National Security Agency’s data to the media in 2013.

According to reports from John Crane, a senior Pentagon investigator from 2004 to 2013, a prominent whistleblower who went to the inspector general hoping to expose wrongdoing within the government more than a decade ago was inadequately protected, the Guardian reported. The report undermined arguments that Snowden could’ve gone through government channels to expose the NSA’s surveillance program.

Crane alleged that the protections set up for whistleblowers became a “trap” for Thomas Drake, a former senior NSA executive who disclosed wrongdoing and allegedly illegal activity in the office years before Snowden. Drake then began working with the Pentagon’s inspector general, but according to Crane, the office leaked Drake’s name to criminal prosecutors, and also destroyed evidence that would’ve acted as defense for Drake. Drake became financially ruined because of the legal fees, though the more serious accusations against him dropped in 2011.

Snowden leaked data from the NSA in 2013 to the Guardian, before several other media outlets also got hold of the documents. The move was heavily criticized, with President Barack Obama noting that sensitive information could now also be accessed by enemies to the U.S., while the NSA’s Inspector General, George Ellard, said “Snowden could have come to me,” in 2014.


“We have surprising success in resolving the complaints that are brought to us,” Ellard said, according to Politico.

In response to Crane’s account, Snowden called for stronger protections for whistleblowers within the government.

“We need iron-clad, enforceable protections for whistleblowers, and we need a public record of success stories,” Snowden told the Guardian. “Protect the people who go to members of Congress with oversight roles, and if their efforts lead to a positive change in policy – recognize them for their efforts. There are no incentives for people to stand up against an agency on the wrong side of the law today, and that’s got to change.”