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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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June 11th, 2013
06:34 PM ET

Manhunt underway for NSA leaker

An international manhunt is underway to find Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old who leaked some of the U.S. government's biggest national security secrets.

Weeks ago, Snowden started final preparations for his leak, and the great escape that followed it.

He moved out of his house in Hawaii on May 6, then left the state on May 20, telling his girlfriend that he was leaving town but not why.

"That is not an uncommon occurrence for someone who has spent the last decade working in the intelligence world," Snowden told The Guardian newspaper.

But it turns out the government was looking for Snowden even before he revealed himself as the source of the intelligence leaks.

The National Security Agency's security and counterintelligence directorate, also known as "Q Group," is the agency's internal police force.

"They're basically the cops or the police of the NSA. Their main job is to make sure that their many analysts and officers and program managers are not targeting by foreign intelligence offices," Eli Lake of Newsweek/The Daily Beast told CNN. Lake broke the news that the Q Group has been hunting Snowden for weeks.

"The NSA Q Group is trying to find out everything they can about Mr. Snowden, about his online habits, his travel habits, the people he knows," said Lake.

They are also trying to figure out any connections he may have to foreign governments.

"We know from some of the stories in The Washington Post and The Guardian that Mr. Snowden was well aware of encryption keys to cloak his movements in cyber space, so right now is ... a bit of a cat and mouse game between the people that are hunting him and the hunted whistle blower."

For now, Snowden's whereabouts are unknown, at least to those outside the Q Group. Snowden checked out of the luxury hotel in Hong Kong where he had been holed up, after racking up an $8,000 bill for the three-week stay.

Going into hiding may have been a tough decision for Snowden.

Until now, he'd been living the good life in Hawaii with his girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, an acrobat and self-described pole-dancer, who she often posted half-naked photos of herself on social media, sometimes cavorting in paradise with a boyfriend she refers to as "the elusive E."

Until last month, Snowden was making a $122,000 a year as a computer technician at Booz Allen Hamilton, which had a contract with the NSA.

When Snowden vanished, he told his supervisor he needed medical leave to treat his epilepsy.

His girlfriend posted another photo of herself in her underwear on her blog on Monday, along with a paean to "the one I've grown to love the most. And the ones I never got to bid adieu. But sometimes life doesn't afford proper goodbyes." The blog has since been taken down.

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a constitutional challenge to the NSA programs that Snowden leaked information about, specifically the program requiring Verizon turn over telephone records, metadata, of millions of Americans to the government.

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