An internal National Security Agency memo offers the most detailed public account yet of how former contractor Edward Snowden obtained access to the agency’s vast database of secrets. The memo, provided to members of Congress and obtained by NBC News, lends support to reports that Snowden stole a colleague’s password, something Snowden has publicly denied.
According to the memo, “at Mr. Snowden’s request, the civilian entered his PKI password at Mr. Snowden’s computer terminal. Unbeknownst to the civilian, Mr. Snowden was able to capture the password, allowing him even greater access to classified information.”
I don't know if this is true or not. I do know that the NSA certainly would benefit by painting Snowden as a password-stealer. ("You know who else steals passwords? Those scary internet pirates who are always sending you e-mails promising money! You sure do hate those people, don't you, folks?") But it may be true. It may not be true. But I do know this: It doesn't matter.
If Edward Snowden suspected that the NSA had a surveillance program this broad, and if he needed to acquire a password from a coworker to garner hard evidence of that program, then that's a moral decision that I'm fully prepared to endorse. Edward Snowden is a national hero for revealing the existence of this secret program to Americans. Sometimes the right thing isn't the legal thing. The only news report that would ever get to me to change my mind about Snowden's actions would be if it was revealed that he fabricated the information to make it more sensationalistic. Even Snowden's most vehement detractors—the people who want to see him hanged for treason—admit that the information is true. Nobody has denied that the NSA surveillance program is much, much larger than the American people were led to believe. Edward Snowden gave us that information. That makes Edward Snowden a hero.