To understand why Edward Snowden leaked top-secret documents revealing that the National Security Agency was spying on hundreds of millions of people across the world, you have to know the stories of two other men.
“The first is Thomas Drake, who blew the whistle on the very same NSA activities 10 years before Snowden did. Drake was a much higher-ranking NSA official than Snowden, and he obeyed US whistleblower laws, raising his concerns through official channels. And he got crushed. Drake was fired, arrested at dawn by gun-wielding FBI agents, stripped of his security clearance, charged with crimes that could have sent him to prison for the rest of his life, and all but ruined financially and professionally. The only job he could find afterwards was working in an Apple store in suburban Washington, where he remains today. Adding insult to injury, his warnings about the dangers of the NSA’s surveillance programme were largely ignored. “The government spent many years trying to break me, and the more I resisted, the nastier they got.””
Written by Mark Hertsgaard, read by Christopher Ragland and produced by Simon Barnard
Illustration by Nathalie Lees