Greenwald: Snowden's salary 'didn't really strike me as a central part of the story'

Edward Snowden -- whose leaks about government surveillance provided major scoops to the Guardian and The Washington Post -- made $122,000 a year at Booz Allen Hamilton, the company says in a statement announcing his termination.

"Snowden, who had a salary at the rate of $122,000, was terminated June 10, 2013 for violations of the firm’s code of ethics and firm policy," the statement reads.

The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald reported Snowden "has had 'a very comfortable life' that included a salary of roughly $200,000." Reached by email, Greenwald called the statement "very strangely worded," noting that it used the word "rate."

"I didn't see paystubs - his salary didn't really strike me as a central part of the story, to put that mildly," Greenwald writes. "It's possible Booz Allen is using a pro-rated figure, or it's possible Snowden talked about his salary at his prior NSA job at Dell."

Barton Gellman, who also reported on Snowden's revelations, said in an email that he didn't think Snowden had said anything to him about his salary.

One source told Erik Wemple, to whom Greenwald gave the same statement, that "Snowden wasn’t bonus-eligible."

Writing about Snowden Monday, David Carr predicted "we will learn far more about his personal and professional life, and perhaps a more complicated narrative about his motivations will emerge."

New York Times columnist David Brooks attempts a little long-distance psychoanalysis of Snowden: "If you live a life unshaped by the mediating institutions of civil society, perhaps it makes sense to see the world a certain way," Brooks writes.

Life is not embedded in a series of gently gradated authoritative structures: family, neighborhood, religious group, state, nation and world. Instead, it’s just the solitary naked individual and the gigantic and menacing state.

Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen did something similar, calling Snowden "merely narcissistic."

He jettisoned a girlfriend, a career and, undoubtedly, his personal freedom to expose programs that were known to our elected officials and could have been deduced by anyone who has ever Googled anything.

So does any of this ding Greenwald's story? Back when I was an editor, I'd have gotten very nervous if it looked like a source lied about anything, on the principle that people who lie about small things eventually lie about big things as well. But the U.S. government said in a statement Saturday that "the surveillance activities published in The Guardian and The Washington Post are lawful and conducted under authorities widely known and discussed," which sure sounds like confirmation of Snowden's revelations, even if there's still some question about exactly whose information the PRISM program is sucking up.

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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