Edward Snowden, a former technical assistant for the CIA, came forward as the man behind the NSA leaks on Sunday, and FOX 9 News spoke with a former CIA officer about whether he is a traitor or a hero.
When he last spoke to The Guardian, Snowden was holed up in a hotel room in Hong Kong, looking for a place to seek asylum. While he waits, many are debating whether his whistleblowing was an act of heroism or the act of a traitor.
Rep. Peter King dubbed Snowden a "defector," saying he should turn himself over to U.S. authorities and face harsh prosecution after the 29-year-old gave information to a British newspaper and launched a firestorm of controversy surrounding the government's data collection and surveillance practices.
Snowden admits that he spent weeks preparing to release what he knew by copying documents and taking time off work, adding that he walked away from a $200,000 salary, a comfortable life in Hawaii and his girlfriend for a good reason.
"I'm willing to sacrifice all of that because I can't in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, Internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they're secretly building," he said.
One of the journalists who interviewed Snowden said the decision was not made hastily. Rather, Snowden had spent years considering it. The PRISM program has been operating for roughly seven years, yet its existence came as a shock to many Americans.
While some argue the surveillance is a price paid to live in a safe society, others say it's a total breach of privacy -- and that has many describing Snowden as a hero for bringing the program into the light. He, however, doesn't see himself that way.
"I don't see myself as a hero because what I'm doing is self-interested," Snowden said. "I don't want to live in a world where there's no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity."
In countries like Israel, such surveillance is common practice and is even more far-reaching. It's something people there have learned to live with because they believe giving up some privacy is a fair exchange for making sure a terrorist doesn't blow up a bus.
FOX 9 News spoke with Jack Rice, a former CIA officer and defense attorney, about the leak.
Watch the video for more information.