Edward Snowden, a former technical worker at the CIA and America's National Security Agency has sensationally revealed himself as the whistleblower behind leaks that uncovered secret US government surveillance programmes.
Snowden, 29, an American IT administrator for the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, revealed his identity at his own request, the Guardian said.
It emerged last week that the UK's eavesdropping agency GCHQ may have connections to the Prism system, which is said to give American agencies easy access to nine of the world's top internet companies, as well as phone records of millions of people.
Snowden, who fled to Hong Kong leaving a home and girlfriend behind in Hawaii, told the newspaper he had no regrets about his actions, and said the unconstrained collection of data was destroying civil liberties.
He said: "I can't allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties.
"My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them."
He chose Hong Kong as a refuge because of the former colony's “spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent.” But the country does have an extradition treaty with the US.
In a stark warning, he said that surveillance was not being properly constrained by policy, and would grow beyond control.
"The months ahead, the years ahead, it's only going to get worse, until eventually there will be a time where policies will change - because the only thing that restricts the activities of the surveillance state are policy.
He added: "There will be nothing the people can do at that point to oppose it. And it'll be turn-key tyranny."
Snowden worked in an NSA office in Hawaii when he copied the last of the documents he planned to disclose, before telling supervisors that he needed to be away for a few weeks to receive treatment for epilepsy, he told the Guardian.
He left for Hong Kong on May 20 and has been there since. In an interview with the newspaper he said he was aware that he would was risking arrest and imprisonment, and that he "will be made to suffer for my actions".
"I've not intention of hiding, I've done nothing wrong. The greatest feat that I have regarding the outcome of these disclosures for America is that nothing will change.
"People will see in the media all of these disclosures, they'll know the lengths the government is going to to grant themselves powers unilaterally, to create greater control over American society and global society, but they won't be willing to take the risks necessary to stand up and fight to change things, to force their representatives to actually take a stand in their interests."
Snowden said he had raised his concerns at work, but went public after they were dismissed.
his former employers, Booz Allen said in a statement that they "can confirm that Edward Snowden, 29, has been an employee of our firm for less than 3 months, assigned to a team in Hawaii.
"News reports that this individual has claimed to have leaked classified information are shocking, and if accurate, this action represents a grave violation of the code of conduct and core values of our firm. We will work closely with our clients and authorities in their investigation of this matter."
Click over to The Guardian to watch an interview with Snowden.