Government contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, as expected, today fired an IT employee who claimed responsibility for leaking documents that described highly classified government surveillance programs to newspapers in the U.S. and the United Kingdom.
The statement said that Snowden, 29, was an employee at Booz Allen Hamilton for less than three months. He was assigned to a Booz-Allen team in Hawaii where he worked as a contract employee for the National Security Agency (NSA) at a salary of $122,000 a year.
Media reports had previously listed Snowden's Booz Allen salary at $200,000 a year.
"News reports that this individual has claimed to have leaked classified information are shocking, and if accurate, this action represents a grave violation of the code of conduct and core values of our firm," the Booz Allen statement said.
Snowden on Saturday said he had leaked to reporters documents describing two top-secret U.S. government surveillance programs.
One of the programs required Verizon, under a secret court order, to provide the NSA with daily records of calls made by all its customers since at least April.
Under the other program, called PRISM, the NSA and the FBI are said to intercept data directly from servers at Google, Microsoft, Facebook and other Internet companies.
The revelation of the programs stirred up protests by some lawmakers and privacy advocates who loudly called for government agencies to reveal more information on classified surveillance programs. Snowden's actions also instantly transformed him from an unknown government contract employee to an international figured seen as either a hero or traitor.
Since the secret documents were first published in the U.K. newspaper, that Guardian, last week, the response has been dizzying.
For instance, some 86 civil liberties groups and Internet companies, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Reddit, Mozilla, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Democracy and Technology, jointly sent a letter to lawmakers seeking an immediate end to the NSA spying program. The group is also pushing for reforms to rein in domestic surveillance. The letter accused lawmakers of approving "dragnet surveillance" programs that violate the First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
Senior Justice Department, NSA and Office of the Director of National Intelligence officials are slated to brief the entire U.S. House of Representatives on the government surveillance programs in closed meetings today, according to CNN.
Meanwhile, the Russian government has said it's willing to consider an asylum request by Snowden, who is reportedly hiding in Hong Kong.
The Russian newspaper Kommersant reported Tuesday that President Vladmir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Russian government would consider any appeal from Snowden on its merits.
Snowden has said the he would seek asylum in Iceland or any country that would be willing to grant him that status. It's unclear if he has made an appeal yet.
A petition to the White House seeking a full pardon for Snowden had garnered more than 47,000 signatures by 11 a.m. today. Petitions with at least 100,000 signatures get a formal response from the White House.
The Justice Department has launched a criminal investigation into the leaking of the two documents. Formal charges are expected to be filed against Snowden soon.
Some U.S. officials say that some of Snowden's claims of obtaining far more classified information about government surveillance programs appear to be exaggerated.
A former federal prosecutor and the parents of a Navy SEAL member killed in action in Afghanistan filed a lawsuit against President Barack Obama, Verizon and others over the data breach. Several others, including some lawmakers have said they are considering similar lawsuits against the government.
Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan, or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed . His email address is [email protected].
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