Well this is interesting: on Sunday night, the NSA, with the help of John Miller and 60 Minutes, attempted to paint Edward Snowden as a weird, shady, intellectually inferior traitor. But today Forbes’s Andy Greenberg interviewed a former NSA colleague of Snowden who paints a vastly different picture of the now-notorious whistleblower, calling Snowden a “genius among geniuses” who carried a Rubik’s cube with him everywhere he went, kept a copy of the Constitution on his desk (so that he could cite it to superiors when he thought the spy agency was overstepping its boundaries) and was exceedingly kind to co-workers. Further, Snowden didn’t dupe anyone into giving him access to the classified document he copied; rather, he had full access to them because he earned it doing his job exceedingly well, better than most who worked at the agency.
As his coworker tells it, he was given full administrator privileges, with virtually unlimited access to NSA data. “Big mistake in hindsight,” says Snowden’s former colleague. “But if you had a guy who could do things nobody else could, and the only problem was that his badge was green instead of blue, what would you do?”
Snowden’s superiors were so impressed with his skills that he was at one point offered a position on the elite team of NSA hackers known as Tailored Access Operations. He unexpectedly turned it down and instead joined Booz Allen to work at NSA’s Threat Operation Center. Another hint of his whistleblower conscience, aside from the telltale hoodie: Snowden kept a copy of the constitution on his desk to cite when arguing against NSA activities he thought might violate it.
The source tells me Snowden also once nearly lost his job standing up for a coworker who was being disciplined by a superior. Snowden often left small, gifts anonymously at colleagues’ desks.
He frequently walked NSA’s halls carrying a Rubik’s cube–the same object he held to identify himself on a Hong Kong street to the journalists who first met with him to publish his leaks.
Good job, good effort, 60 Minutes. As I mentioned yesterday, there was not a single dissenting voice in the show’s NSA report. They were allowed to say whatever they wanted unchecked, essentially just handing over a press release delivered to them by the agency’s PR department. What a goddamn joke.
Meanwhile, read Greenberg’s full report on his interview with Snowden’s former NSA colleague here.