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Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old system administrator and former undercover CIA employee, unmasked himself Sunday as the principal source of recent Washington Post and Guardian disclosures about top-secret NSA programs, denouncing what he described as systematic surveillance of innocent citizens and saying in an interview, “it’s important to send a message to government that people will not be intimidated.”

Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. said Saturday that the NSA had initiated a Justice Department investigation into who leaked the information.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feisntein (D-Calif.) said Sunday that the Obama Administration's recently revealed surveillance programs have thwarted two major terrorist plots.

Snowden, whose full name is Edward Joseph Snowden, said he understands the risks of disclosing the information, but that he felt it was the right thing to do.

“I intend to ask for asylum from any countries that believe in free speech and oppose the victimization of global privacy,” Snowden told the Post. The Guardian was the first to publicly identify Snowden. Both media organizations made his name public with his consent.

“I’m not going to hide,” Snowden said Sunday afternoon. “Allowing the U.S. government to intimidate its people with threats of retaliation for revealing wrongdoing is contrary to the public interest.”

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