What a difference four years has apparently made for Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency contractor who passed secret documents to journalists — but seemingly had nothing but contempt for those who leaked classified information in 2009.
Snowden, while using the online handle “TheTrueHOOHA,” was particularly livid during a January 2009 chat about a New York Times article detailing secret negotiations between the United States and Israel regarding how best to address Iran’s suspected nuclear program.
“Are they TRYING to start a war? Jesus Christ,” Snowden wrote, according to chat logs uncovered by Ars Technica, a technology news website. “They're like Wikileaks.”
When another chat room participant replied, “they’re just reporting, dude,” Snowden shot back: “You don't put that [expletive] in the NEWSPAPER.
“Moreover, who the [expletive] are the anonymous sources telling them this?” Snowden continued. “Those people should be shot in the balls.”
The messages by Snowden, who was 25 at the time and reportedly stationed in Geneva by the Central Intelligence Agency, are in sharp contrast to his more recent views regarding executive secrecy, which he claims prompted him to go public with the federal government's snooping tactics.
“I wonder how many hundreds of millions of dollars they just completely blew,” he continued, in reference to The New York Times. “It's not an overreaction. They have a HISTORY of this [expletive].”
But the logs of the Internet Relayed Chat (IRC) server associated with Ars Technica don't necessarily show a 180-degree shift in Snowden's worldview, according to an article that accompanied release of the logs.
“It's hardly a perfect parallel,” Ars Technica wrote in the article. “Snowden was upset about leaks over U.S. covert operations in Iran, which is different from the domestic spying and offensive cyberwar programs he felt compelled to make public.”
Snowden, who turned 30 last week and is believed to be encamped in a Moscow airport, last logged on to the chatroom in May 2009, Ars Technica reports. President Obama has said he won’t engage in negotiations to have Snowden extradited to the United States, rejecting suggestions that the Air Force consider forcing down a plane carrying Snowden from Russia to another country. Obama said the fact that Snowden obtained the secret documents shows significant NSA vulnerabilities.
Snowden has cast himself as a fierce defender of individual privacy and someone determined to expose vast U.S. surveillance powers.
“I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” he told Britain’s Guardian newspaper in a June 9 report, which revealed he was in Hong Kong at the time.
He said he became “hardened” later in 2009 as President Obama advanced “the very policies” Snowden thought would be curtailed.
By April of that year, a few months into his appointment in Switzerland, Snowden reported to the chatroom about his time in the country, saying it was like “living in a postcard” and that prostitution was legal.
“It's just nightmarishly expensive and horrifically classist,” Snowden continued, according to chat logs. “I have never, EVER seen a people more racist than the Swiss. Jesus god they look down on EVERYONE. Even each other.”
Snowden then told a user he liked the “friendly” Italians he had met during his travels. An unidentified user then commented how the United Kingdom did not have “ghettos,” prompting Snowden to respond forcefully.
“Sure you do,” he replied. “I went to London just last year … It's where all of your Muslims live … I didn't want to get out of the car. I thought I had gotten off of plane in the wrong country.”
Snowden said the experience was “terrifying,” adding the Muslims “just seemed awfully … orthodox.”
“I mean it wasn't like, ‘Hi, we're your friendly neighborhood Muslim community. welcome to our main street,” he wrote. “It was more like, ‘SUBMIT TO THE WILL OF ALLAH. SHARIAH REGULATIONS POSTED AT ALL CORNERS.’”
Some chatroom participants who were familiar with Snowden, meanwhile, told Ars Technica they recognized his username shortly after a Reuters profile revealed it.
"I remember that guy," one user wrote. "He was kind of a d---. But fair play to him for what he's done."