(REUTERS) — Recent revelations about the National Security Agency’s expansive data-collection efforts have underscored the power of electronic surveillance in the Internet era and renewed an historic debate over how far the government should go in spying on its own people.

A disillusioned former CIA computer technician named Edward Snowden, who had worked as a contactor at the NSA, identified himself on Sunday as the source of multiple disclosures on the government’s surveillance that were published by the Guardian and the Washington Post last week.

The information included a secret court order directing Verizon Communications Inc to turn over all its calling records for a three-month period, and details about an NSA program code-named PRISM, which collected emails, chat logs and other types of data from Internet companies. These included Google Inc, Facebook Inc, Microsoft Corp, Yahoo Inc, AOL Inc and Apple Inc.

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