Pre-Snowden Whistleblower Explains How NSA Got 'Unleashed' To Spy On Everyone

We spoke with a famous NSA whistleblower about mass surveillance and why he had to speak up against it.

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Jul 18 2016, 5:27pm

Thomas Drake was a 48-year-old decorated Air Force and Navy veteran, and a senior executive at the National Security Agency, the NSA, when he decided he had to speak up against what he considered the spy agency's abuses.

That's when he anonymously contacted a reporter at The Baltimore Sun, helping her expose wrongdoing at the agency in a series of articles. Two years later, the FBI raided his home, and the US government launched an investigation into Drake for leaking classified information and espionage.

All of a sudden, Drake faced the possibility of spending most, if not all, of the rest of his life in jail. Looking back now, after he escaped jail and only pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, Drake says it was all worth it.

"History was at stake," he said in a recent interview with VICE's reporter Ben Makuch filmed for VICELAND's series on hacking and surveillance, CYBERWAR.

"The mantra was, just get the data. Collect it all, so we can know it all."

In a deleted scene, Drake explains how the NSA got "unleashed" after 9/11 and expanded its spying powers, pushing it beyond the limits of what he believed was acceptable.

"The mantra was, just get the data," Drake said. "Collect it all, so we can know it all."

"All means necessary to confront the threat, who cares about the Constitution, who cares about law, who cares about the rights of US persons," Drake added.

Check out the deleted scene above to hear Drake's motives in his own words, and check out the CYBERWAR series, every Tuesday at 10:30 PM on VICELAND.