The individual responsible for one of the most significant leaks in political history, Edward Snowden, has chosen to take the spotlight instead of lurking in the shadows of anonymity.
The 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, has been working at the National Security Agency for the last four years as an employee of various outside contractors, including Booz Allen and Dell.
The Guardian newspaper revealed his identity at his request. According to the newspaper, the moment he decided to disclose numerous top-secret documents to the public, he was determined not to opt for the protection of anonymity. "I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong," the newspaper quoted him as saying.
Snowden who would go down in history as one of America's most consequential whistleblowers, alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning, is responsible for handing over material from one of the world's most secretive organisations – the NSA.
The report said, in a note accompanying the first set of documents he provided, he wrote, "I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions," but "I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant."
Despite his insistence on public identification, he repeatedly insists that he wanted to avoid the media spotlight. "I don't want public attention because I don't want the story to be about me. I want it to be about what the US government is doing."
Snowden leaked his revelations initially to The Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald, which included the existence of a growing NSA stockpile of millions of phone records from the US public.
According to the top secret documents, the Agency's PRISM programme also afforded it ''direct access'' to files from the servers of major tech companies such as Google and Facebook. The vast data mining operation was undertaken to ostensibly anticipate and prevent terror plots.
Snowden's identity was revealed after the US director of national intelligence, James Clapper, said yesterday that he had asked the justice department to launch a criminal investigation into the leaks, telling NBC News, ''It is literally gut-wrenching to see this happening, because of the huge grave damage it does to our intelligence capabilities… this is a key tool for preserving protecting the nation's safety and security.''
Whistleblowers such as US army private Bradley Manning, whose trial on charges of passing classified material to the Wikileaks website got under way last week, three years after his arrest have been aggressively pursued by the Obama administration.
Snowden told newspaper from the Hong Kong hotel room where he is currently hiding that he did not expect to see home again.