Security whistleblower and wanted man Edward Snowden's evolving views on national security and other political matters are on full display in an article on a techie news site today. According to newly-released chat logs from Ars Technica, a tech website he frequented from 2001 until 2010, Snowden was, at times, an unlikely defender of the national security apparatus. While his opinions expressed in the chats were otherwise of a libertarian bent, he took a jaundiced view of leakers and was harshly critical of the press that reported their information.
These transcripts came to light after Ars Technica learned that Snowden was a user and did some digging. Multiple users who had interacted with TheTrueHOOHA, Snowden's user name there and elsewhere on the Net, came forward and provided Ars with their chat logs. The chats took place on the site’s #arsificial IRC channel. Biographical information and photos posted by TheTrueHOOHA are reported to match known information about Snowden.
A striking instance of Snowden's defense of secrecy in national security matters and anger towards leakers took place in January 2009. Reacting to a New York Times story disclosing secret exchanges between the White House and Israeli officials regarding Iran, he said, "Jesus Christ they're like wikileaks', and complained that the sources of the article "should be shot in the balls." Interestingly, he also complained that the New York Times staff were "the same people who screwed us on wiretapping," possibly a reference to this story the paper broke in 2005 on a similar case of NSA spying under the Bush Administration.
Snowden's virulence against leaks is difficult to square with the image of him today. One might wonder if this could be a campaign to smear Snowden's reputation. History tells us that this possibility cannot be totally dismissed; the Nixon Administration's actions against Daniel Ellsberg (leaker of the Pentagon Papers) illustrate this. But it is far more likely that Snowden's views simply evolved, as he told the Guardian. He continues to maintain that he carefully parsed what information he would release and withheld information he saw as truly vital to U.S. national security interests. This is in line with this exchange he had with another user during that 2009 IRC conversation, where he emphasized the importance of not "violating national security":
Ars Technica is a well-regarded site devoted to news, reviews, and analysis covering tech content. Harvard's Nieman Foundation for Journalism describes it as "influential," and it has received glowing coverage from the Wall Street Journal's tech writer Kara Swisher. Many of its writers have advanced degrees and work in academia or for public policy institutes such as Cato. Started in 1998 by current editor-in-chief Ken Fisher, it was acquired by Conde Nast in 2008 for an estimated $25 million dollars.