Ten years before Edward Snowden revealed his bombshell that the United States government was electronically spying on people on a massive scale there was Bay Area resident Mark Klein.
As a San Francisco-based AT&T technician in 2003, he installed a splitter that sent a copy of communications data to a secret room set up by the NSA in his South of Market office building.
"I knew right away that was completely illegal, because they weren't doing any selection process," Klein said. "They weren't using any warrants."
Klein kept company documents after retiring and finally told his story in 2006. He received some coverage and wrote a book in 2009.
Klein said he is relieved another person -- Snowden -- could corroborate his story, but with actual government documents.
"When he first came out, I was delighted. It was, first of all, vindication for what I was saying," Klein said. "He also revealed the programs they were doing were vastly bigger than I ever understood at the time."
Snowden should be able to come back home to the United States, Klein said.
"Snowden should be given retroactive immunity, and he should be given an award for his service to the country," Klein said.
In a wide-ranging interview with NBC "Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams that aired Wednesday night, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden said he sees himself as a patriot who leaked classified documents to inform the American public about surveillance programs that violated the U.S. Constitution.
"I've from Day One said that I'm doing this to serve my country," said Snowden. He also said he plans to ask Russia to extend his asylum and blamed the U.S. government for violating the law, making leakers like himself necessary.