How Edward Snowden went from loyal NSA contractor to whistleblower

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In late December 2001, someone calling themselves TheTrueHOOHA had a question. He was an 18-year-old American male with impressive IT skills and a sharp intelligence. His real identity was unknown. Everyone who posted on Ars Technica, a popular technology website, did so anonymously.

TheTrueHOOHA wanted to set up his own web server. It was a Saturday morning, a little after 11am. He posted: "It's my first time. Be gentle. Here's my dilemma: I want to be my own host. What do I need?"

Soon, regular users were piling in with helpful suggestions. TheTrueHOOHA replied: "Ah, the vast treasury of geek knowledge that is Ars." He would become a prolific contributor; over the next eight years, he authored nearly 800 comments. He described himself variously as "unemployed", a failed soldier, a "systems editor", and someone who had US State Department security clearance.

His home was on the east coast of America in the state of Maryland, near Washington DC. But by his mid-20s he was already an international man of mystery. He popped up in Europe – in Geneva, London, Ireland, Italy and Bosnia. He travelled to India. Despite having no degree, he knew an astonishing amount about computers. His politics appeared staunchly Republican. He believed strongly in personal liberty, defending, for example, Australians who farmed cannabis plants.

At times he could be rather obnoxious. He called one fellow-Arsian, for example, a "cock"; others who disagreed with his sink-or-swim views on social security were "fucking retards".

His chat logs cover a colourful array of themes: gaming, girls, sex, Japan, the stock market, his disastrous stint in the US army, his negative impressions of multiracial Britain (he was shocked by the number of..

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/01/edward-snowden-intelligence-leak-nsa-contractor-extract