Snowden, 29, who formerly worked as a technical assistant for the CIA and currently works for defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, revealed his identity voluntarily, Britain's The Guardian reported Sunday.
"I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong," he told the newspaper, which initially reported on the National Security Agency data collection last week.
Snowden, in part in his capacity with Booz Allen, has worked for four years at the NSA, the newspaper said.
Snowden said when he decided to leak the documents he also decided he would not remain anonymous.
"I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions," he said in a note accompanying the first documents he provided to The Guardian.
"I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant," he said.
Snowden insisted he does not want public attention because he wants the story "to be about what the U.S. government is doing."
He said he fears "the harmful effects on my family" but was otherwise willing to sacrifice "a very comfortable life" -- a $200,000 annual income, possibly his career -- "because I can't in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, Internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they're secretly building."
"You can't wait around for someone else to act," he said.
"I carefully evaluated every single document I disclosed to ensure that each was legitimately in the public interest," he said. "There are all sorts of documents that would have made a big impact that I didn't turn over, because harming people isn't my goal. Transparency is."