Whistleblower and privacy advocate
BIOGRAPHY SUMMARYIn 2013, Edward Snowden and his thumb drive full of classified NSA documents boarded a plane and changed the world forever. His bravery forced the world to reckon with the consequences of mass surveillance and inspired a new generation of whistleblowers.
Edward Snowden Overview ‧ read
Instead of returning to finish school, he began taking classes at the local community college and became engrossed in computers, technology, the internet, and Japanese anime culture. In 2004, he joined the United States Army Reserve, but he was soon discharged after breaking both of his legs five months into special-forces training.
In 2009, he resigned from the CIA to work as a private contractor: first for Dell, and then for Booz Allen Hamilton. As a contractor, Snowden worked in Tokyo, Maryland, and finally Hawaii, where he began the work that would ultimately make him one of America’s most polarizing figures.
Stealing NSA documents
In May 2013, Snowden told his bosses he needed to take a medical leave of absence to deal with his recently diagnosed epilepsy. On May 20, 2013, Snowden flew to Hong Kong and braced himself for what was to come.
These were just the first in a series of incriminating leaks by worldwide media outlets revealing the numerous mass surveillance programs by not only the NSA but also its global partners.
Several days later, U.S. federal prosecutors charged Snowden with theft of government property, plus two counts of violating the U.S. Espionage Act: unauthorized communication of national defense information and willful communication of classified intelligence with an unauthorized person.
Snowden remained in Hong Kong for one month, until, with the aid of WikiLeaks, he set out to flee to Ecuador via Russia and Cuba. When his flight arrived in Russia, however, U.S. officials revoked his passport, preventing him from continuing on in his journey. Snowden has since remained in Russia, where he was initially granted temporary asylum, and then, in August 2014, a three-year residency permit. (The permit has since been extended again.)