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Edward Snowden

Edward Joseph Snowden (born June 21, 1983)[1] is an American technical contractor and former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee, who worked as a contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA) before leaking details of a classified NSA spy program to the press.[2][3] Snowden released classified material on top-secret NSA programs including the PRISM surveillance program to The Guardian and The Washington Post in June 2013.[3][4][5][6][7]
Snowden said his leaking of PRISM and FISA orders related to NSA data capture efforts was an effort to blow the whistle on excessive government surveillance of the American people. He traveled to Hong Kong before the leaks were publicized, expressing hope of eventually being granted asylumin Iceland.[7][8] The U.S. Department of Justice has classified Snowden's involvement in the PRISM surveillance program as a "criminal matter", and his fate remains unclear.[9]

Early life and career

Snowden was brought up in Elizabeth CityNorth Carolina; he then moved with his family to Ellicott City, Maryland, where he studied computing at a Maryland community college in order to gain the credits necessary to obtain a high school diploma, but he didn't complete the course[10] and later obtained his GED.[7][11]
On May 7, 2004, Snowden enlisted in the United States Army with the hope of eventually joining the Special Forces.[1] He was discharged on September 28[1] after breaking both of his legs in a training accident. He then went to work as a security guard for a covert NSA facility at the University of Maryland.[12] After that he went to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), where he worked on IT security.[13]
In 2007, the CIA stationed him with diplomatic cover in GenevaSwitzerland, where he was responsible for maintaining computer network security.[14] Leaving the CIA in 2009, he worked for a private contractor inside an NSA facility on a United States military base in Japan.[7]
At the time of his departure from the U.S. in May 2013, he had been working for defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton for less than three months as a system administrator inside of the NSA inHawaii.[15][16] He described his life as "very comfortable," living in Hawaii and earning a salary of "roughly US$200,000."[7]
The Guardian describes Snowden as intensely passionate about the value of privacy; his laptop is adorned with stickers supporting internet freedom organizations including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Tor Project.[7] In the 2008 presidential election, Snowden voted for a third party. He said he "believed in Obama's promises," yet "he continued with the policies of his predecessor."[17] Political donation records indicate that he contributed to the primary campaign of Ron Paul.[18]
In May 2013, Snowden was granted temporary leave from his work as a contractor for the NSA in Hawaii, on the pretext of receiving treatment for hisepilepsy.[7] According to their estate agent, Snowden and his girlfriend moved out of their home in WaipahuWest Oahu, Hawaii on May 1, leaving nothing behind.[10] On May 20, he flew to Hong Kong and began living in a hotel room.[19]
The Washington Post reported that the motive behind the leaks was to expose the "surveillance state" that he felt the United States was becoming.[2]
I don't want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded.
—Edward Snowden, speaking to The Guardian in June 2013[17]
Snowden's identity was made public by The Guardian and The Washington Post at his request, days after the leak. He explained his reasoning for forgoing anonymity: "I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong."[7]

Quest for political asylum

Snowden has said that he has a "predisposition to seek asylum in a country with shared values," and that his ideal choice would be Iceland.[6][7] TheInternational Modern Media Institute, an Icelandic freedom of speech advocacy organisation, on the day his identity was revealed issued a statement offering Snowden legal advice and assistance in gaining asylum.[20] However, Kristin Arnadottir, the Icelandic ambassador to China, pointed out that an asylum cannot be granted to Snowden because Icelandic law requires such applications be made from within the country.[21]
On June 10, CNN reported that Snowden is "running out of cash," with The Guardian's Ewen MacAskill claiming that Snowden's "credit card is going to max out pretty quickly" because of the expense of living in a hotel in Hong Kong. Staff at theThe Mira hotel have claimed Snowden checked out that day.[22][23] Hong Kong legislator and former Secretary for SecurityRegina Ip had advised Snowden to leave the territory or face extradition to United States.[24]

Reactions

The National Security Agency has requested a criminal probe into Snowden's actions from the United States Department of JusticeJames R. ClapperDirector of National Intelligence, said that his "reckless disclosures" have resulted in "significant misimpressions" in the media.[25] Speaking before Snowden was named, chairman of the US Select Committee on Intelligence Mike Rogerssaid of the whistleblower: "I absolutely think they should be prosecuted."[26]
Snowden's employer Booz Allen Hamilton released a statement condemning his actions revealing the data collection of millions of people as "shocking" and "a grave violation of the code of conduct and core values of our firm."[15] The statement emphasized his short-term involvement with the firm stating Snowden had been in Hawaii working for less than three months. It was after this employment with Booz that he left for Hong Kong to reveal his findings to the world.
Peter King, formerly the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, called for Snowden’s extradition from Hong Kong, with which the United States has an extradition treaty but with exclusions for political offenses.[27]
Amy Davidson, writing in The New Yorker, said Snowden "is the reason our country has, in the last week, been having a conversation on privacy and the limits of domestic surveillance. That was overdue, and one wishes it had been prompted by self-examination on the part of the Obama Administration or real oversight by Congress." She went on to say "We also learned that James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, flat-out lied to the Senate when he said that the N.S.A. did not 'wittingly' collect any sort of data on millions of Americans. And we were reminded of how disappointing President Obama can be. These were all things the public deserved to know."[28]
Shortly after Snowden revealed his identity, a petition[29] was posted on the White House website, asking for "a full, free, and absolute pardon for any crimes [Snowden] has committed or may have committed related to blowing the whistle on secret NSA surveillance programs."[30][31]
Daniel Ellsberg, the whistleblower and leaker of the top-secret Pentagon Papers in 1971, stated in an interview with CNN that he thought Snowden had done an "incalculable" service to his country and that his leaks might prevent America from becoming a surveillance state. He said Snowden had acted with the same sort of courage and patriotism as a soldier in battle.[32] In an op-ed the following morning, Ellsberg added that "there has not been in American history a more important leak than Edward Snowden's release of NSA material – and that includes the Pentagon Papers, for which I was responsible 40 years ago."[33]
German magazine Der Spiegel reviewed Snowden's action in an article titled "Die Neuen Weltverbesserer", which translates into "The New World-Improvers".[34]
Julian Assange praised Snowden calling him "a "hero" who has exposed "one of the most serious events of the decade – the creeping formulation of a mass surveillance state".[35]
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