A separate spokesman said the Snowden who attended the college never took computer classes there. He declined to say what classes the man took, citing confidentiality laws.

Snowden grew up attending Anne Arundel County public schools, Crofton Woods Elementary and Crofton Middle, and then Arundel High School for 1½ years, leaving after the first semester of the 1998-1999 school year, said Rober Mosier, a district spokesman.

Snowden's mother, Elizabeth Barrett Snowden, filed for divorce against her husband, Lonnie Glenn Snowden, Jr., in February 2001, and it was finalized three months later.

His mother, also known as Wendy, is chief deputy clerk for administration and information technology for U.S. District Court in Baltimore, a court official confirmed.

The Guardian published a secret court order last week that requires Verizon to turn over to the NSA the telephone call data of millions of customers. The order is believed to be one of several in an ongoing program that also involves other carriers.

The Guardian and The Washington Post then reported details of a second program, called Prism, through which the newspapers said the agency is extracting audio and video chats, photographs, emails, documents and connection logs from American Internet companies including Google, Facebook, Skype and YouTube.

The revelations prompted the director of national intelligence to take the rare step last week of declassifying some details of the top secret programs.

James R. Clapper said NSA uses "telephony metadata" such as numbers dialed and lengths of calls, but does not listen to the calls. Clapper said the Internet program does not target U.S. citizens or others on U.S. soil.

But the exposure of the secret programs has revived the long-running debate within the United States and abroad about the vast reach of the NSA and other U.S. intelligence agencies, which have expanded their surveillance programs dramatically since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

U.S. officials say the agency operates within the law.

The Guardian reported that Snowden wanted his identity to be revealed.

"My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which was done in their name and that which is done against them," the Guardian quoted Snowden as saying.

That sentiment echoed those expressed by Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, the former Maryland man now facing a court-martial that at Fort Meade.

Manning, who served as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad, has acknowledged giving hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.

The 25-year-old soldier told a military judge in February that he leaked diplomatic cables, Iraq and Afghanistan war logs, and gunsight video footage of a 2007 U.S. helicopter attack that killed civilians in Baghdad to provoke a public debate over U.S. foreign and military policy.

Manning, who lived in Potomac and studied at Montgomery College before enlisting in the Army in 2007, has been charged with aiding the enemy and violating the Espionage Act. His court-martial began last week and resumes Monday. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison. Earlier this year, he pleaded guilty to 10 lesser charges of mishandling classified information and faces up to 20 years behind bars for those counts.

Including Manning, President Barack Obama's administration has prosecuted six people for illegal disclosures of classified information, more than all other administrations combined.

The highly secretive NSA, which is fenced off from the rest of Fort Meade, collects and processes intelligence gathered from phone calls, Internet activity and other electronic communications. The number of employees at its steel-and-glass headquarters, visible from Route 32, is classified.

Booz Allen Hamilton said Sunday that Snowden had been an employee for less than three months and was 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," the contractor, based in Northern Virginia, said in a statement. "We will work closely with our clients and authorities in their investigation of this matter."

Snowden had been working at NSA for four years as a contractor for outside companies including Booz Hamilton and Dell, the Guardian reported.

He copied secret documents at the NSA office in Hawaii where he works and told his supervisor he needed "a couple of weeks" off for treatment for epilepsy, the newspaper reported. He then flew to Hong Kong, which he told the newspaper he chose because "they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent."

matthew.brown@baltsun.com

Baltimore Sun reporters John Fritze, Carrie Wells, Scott Dance, Tricia Bishop and Reuters contributed to this article.