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AP IMPACT: Raised in the NSA's shadow _ a life of disillusionment, a decision to leak secrets

The intelligence contractor whose leak of top-secret documents has exposed sweeping government surveillance grew up in Fort Meade, Md., in the shadow of the headquarters of the nation's spy agency, its presence an accepted part of everyday life.

When 29-year-old Edward Snowden attended a high school in the suburbs between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., the National Security Agency sent employees to tutor struggling math students. His community college offered cybersecurity training to prepare workers for agency employment. When Snowden joined friends in an online venture, it was operated out of military housing just beyond an NSA gate.

In this setting, it's easy to see how Snowden was exposed to the notion of a career in spycraft.

But online posts, public records and interviews reveal someone who prized the American ideal of personal freedom but became disenchanted with the way government secretly operates in the name of national security.