By Jethro Mullen and Matt Smith, CNN
updated 6:41 AM EDT, Mon June 10, 2013

Hong Kong (CNN) -- The man behind of one of the biggest leaks in the history of U.S. intelligence is a former technical assistant for the CIA who is now holed up in a Hong Kong hotel, in danger of running out of money and hoping to find asylum somewhere in the world.

Edward Snowden, 29, was identified over the weekend by American and British newspapers as the person who exposed details of a top-secret American program that collects vast streams of phone and Internet data.

The revelations have set off a furious debate in the United States about whether the surveillance program is a disturbing form of government overreach or an important tool for intelligence agencies trying to prevent attacks against the nation.

They have also dealt a fresh blow to the Obama administration, which has found itself on the defensive early in the president's second term amid other complaints of intrusions of privacy.