Photos that appeared to be of Snowden were posted on Ars Technica online forums several years ago by a user with the alias "TheTrueHOOHA." The photos surfaced earlier this month after Snowden revealed himself as the person who leaked the NSA documents. Snowden employed that same username on the website of an anime company where he once worked. That site also included pictures of Snowden. The posts on Ars Technica, in both the forums and chatrooms, also reference details that match confirmed facts about his life.
TheTrueHOOHA began posting in Ars Technica online forums as early as 2006, when Snowden was 23-years-old. During that time, he was reportedly working as a contractor for the CIA under diplomatic cover in Geneva. In posts on the forums, TheTrueHOOHA, joked about NSA surveillance programs, discussed playing video games, and claimed he began working with the CIA to travel the world.
According to Ars Technica, once TheTrueHOOHA's forum postings became public, "multiple longtime users of the site" turned in logs from unarchived Ars Technica chatrooms that seem to include Snowden corresponding as TheTrueHOOHA. In those conversations, he discussed working in Geneva, marveled at the what he described as the "nightmarishly expensive and horrifically classist" environment in Switzerland, and described winning and losing large amounts of money trading stocks.
The most eye-opening chat log published by Ars Technica featured TheTrueHooHa discussing a 2009 New York Times article describing covert U.S. operations to target Iran's nuclear capabilities. The article was based on information from anonymous sources. Though Snowden would later release classified NSA documents to the press, TheTrueHOOHA blasted the people who apparently leaked information to the Times.
"[W]ho the fuck are the anonymous sources telling them this?" asked TheTrueHOOHA. "those people should be shot in the balls."
Along with the leakers, TheTrueHOOHA criticized the Times itself, comparing the paper to Wikileaks, the organization that would later advise and aid Snowden.
"WTF NYTIMES ... Are they TRYING to start a war? Jesus christ they're like wikileaks," TheTrueHOOHA wrote. "They're reporting classified shit ... about an unpopular country surrounded by enemies already engaged in a war and about our interactions with said country regarding planning sovereignity violations of another country you don't put that shit in the NEWSPAPER."
Along with his thoughts on leaks, TheTrueHOOHA discussed presidential politics in the Ars Technica chat logs. Snowden told the Guardian he voted for a third party candidate in the 2008 presidential election. At the time, TheTrueHOOHA told his fellow chatters he could back then-Sen. Barack Obama if he teamed up with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). TheTrueHOOHA praised McCain as a "guy with real values" and said of an Obama presidency, "We need an idealist first and foremost." One 2008 candidate, Hillary Clinton, did not have the approval of TheTrueHOOHA, who said she "would be a pox on the country" in the White House. TheTrueHOOHA also praised libertarian darling Ron Paul, who apparently received a donation from Snowden last year, as "dreamy." Along with complimenting Paul, TheTrueHOOHA expressed support for other libertarian policies including the gold standard and the elimination of social security.
"[S]ave money? cut this social security bullshit," wrote TheTrueHOOHA. "Somehow, our society managed to make it hundreds of years without social security just fine."
Assuming TheTrueHOOHA was indeed Snowden, his 2009 conversations indicate his view of the government and leakers changed substantially in the years between his time in Switzerland and his current life as a self-described whistleblower on the run with Wikileaks. However, in an interview with the Guardian, one of the newspapers that published his leaked documents, Snowden indicated he did indeed have a change of heart during his time in Geneva. According to the Guardian, that period is when Snowden "thought for the first time about exposing government secrets."
"Much of what I saw in Geneva really disillusioned me about how my government functions and what its impact is in the world," Snowden told the paper. "I realised that I was part of something that was doing far more harm than good."
According to Ars Technica, TheTrueHOOHA has not participated in chats on the site in over four years.