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Before Edward Snowden: “Sexual deviates” and the NSA

Edward Snowden’s flight from Hong Kong to Moscow last Saturday, reportedly to seek asylum in another country, marked the start of what has become – every 53 years or so – a major National Security Agency defection that involves Russia. I doubt Snowden understood it was anniversary week at Fort Meade. But on June 25, 1960, also a Saturday, two NSA employees named William Hamilton Martin and Bernon F. Mitchell who, like one-time NSA employee and contract worker Snowden, had intimate knowledge of the agency’s sensitive inner operations -- quietly boarded a plane in Washington, D.C., with Moscow as their ultimate destination.

The Cold War defection of the two code breakers made global headlines like those Snowden is making, albeit without today’s blow-by-blow tweets and cable coverage. When the two longtime buddies surfaced months later at a press conference in the Soviet Union, they announced they’d been granted asylum and had become Soviet citizens. Standing before 200 reporters at Moscow’s theater-styled House of Journalists, the defectors said they hoped to expose what they called the government’s lies – similar to Snowden’s stated motives in revealing NSA’s megadata collection of the public’s phone calls. The NSA panicked; a secret study from 1963 by the agency declares that "Beyond any doubt, no other event has had, or is likely to have in the future, a greater impact on the Agency's security program."

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