US whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed on Thursday, June 27, that to avoid detection he relied on the veiled nature of Bitcoin transactions to pay for the servers he used to leak information to the media back in 2013.

Snowden’s disclosures to the press when a government employee working for some of the US’s top intelligence agencies revealed a number of global surveillance operations run by the National Security Agency (NSA) and by multilateral security group the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance.

Having been granted asylum by Russia, and speaking from a secret location in Moscow to the Bitcoin 2019 conference in San Francisco, Snowden revealed:

The servers that I used to transfer this information to journalists were paid for using Bitcoin.

State Employment

Snowden was employed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as a technology specialist responsible for maintaining computer network security at the government agency.

While he resigned from the CIA in 2009, he then worked as a subcontractor for Dell, which was managing network systems for several government agencies, and then in 2013 for Booz Allen Hamilton, an NSA subcontractor.

It was after leaving employment at an NSA facility in Hawaii that Snowden flew to Hong Kong in May 2013 and began disclosing multiple classified documents to journalists at the Guardian in the UK and to US documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras.

Snowden told the Bitcoin conference:

Bitcoin is free money […] you are able to exchange and interact permissionless.

Privacy and Freedom

Praising the decentralized nature of Bitcoin’s underlying blockchain that allows transactions to be recorded but not directly monitored by outside agents, he added:

And when I think about privacy, that’s what it’s all about. What does liberty mean? It’s freedom from permission, it means we live our lives in a way that we can experiment, we can engage, we can try things, we can even fail, and we don’t have to get a permission slip from the principal’s office.

While Snowden remains an enemy of the state to the US government, many around the world who disdain state-backed prying regard him as a hero. 

Strictly speaking a criminal himself, Snowden tackled the subject of cryptocurrency-funded crime such as money laundering, but added: “There are a hell of a lot more criminals that use the dollar.”