An anonymous former NSA colleague of Edward Snowden described his career at the Agency to Forbes's Andy Greenberg, giving an account of a gifted, principled, compassionate technical "genius" who came to work in his EFF NSA spying hoodie (these were available to donors who gave at least $250 to the Electronic Frontier Foundation).
The co-worker's account paints quite a picture, and also rebuts accusations that Snowden tricked his co-workers into giving him the credentials to gain access to the documents he leaked ("Snowden was given a manager's password so that he could cover for him while he was on vacation. Even then, investigators found no evidence Snowden had misused that staffer’s privileges"). He also kept a copy of the Constitution on his desk "to cite when arguing against NSA activities he thought might violate it."
Snowden had been brought to Hawaii as a cybersecurity expert working for Dell’s services division but due to a problem with the contract was reassigned to become an administrator for the Microsoft intranet management system known as Sharepoint. Impressed with his technical abilities, Snowden’s managers decided that he was the most qualified candidate to build a new web front-end for one of its projects, despite his contractor status. As his coworker tells it, he was given full administrator privileges, with virtually unlimited access to NSA data. “Big mistake in hindsight,” says Snowden’s former colleague. “But if you had a guy who could do things nobody else could, and the only problem was that his badge was green instead of blue, what would you do?”
Snowden’s superiors were so impressed with his skills that he was at one point offered a position on the elite team of NSA hackers known as Tailored Access Operations. He unexpectedly turned it down and instead joined Booz Allen to work at NSA’s Threat Operation Center. Another hint of his whistleblower conscience, aside from the telltale hoodie: Snowden kept a copy of the constitution on his desk to cite when arguing against NSA activities he thought might violate it.
The source tells me Snowden also once nearly lost his job standing up for a coworker who was being disciplined by a superior. Snowden often left small, gifts anonymously at colleagues’ desks.
He frequently walked NSA’s halls carrying a Rubik’s cube–the same object he held to identify himself on a Hong Kong street to the journalists who first met with him to publish his leaks.
An NSA Coworker Remembers The Real Edward Snowden: 'A Genius Among Geniuses' [Andy Greenberg/Forbes]
I write books. My latest is a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). More books: Rapture of the Nerds (a novel, with Charlie Stross); With a Little Help (short stories); and The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (novella and nonfic). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.