Edward Snowden Overview ‧
Computer wizard. Cyberstrategist. Whistleblower.
Champion of data privacy and internet freedom.
Self-professed patriot. Wanted in the U.S. for espionage. … Here’s Edward Snowden’s bio in a nutshell.
Edward Joseph Snowden was born in 1983 in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, into a family where everybody
worked for the federal government in some capacity. In tenth grade, Snowden stopped attending high school
when he came down with mononucleosis.
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
Snowden’s career as a security specialist began in 2005, when he worked as a security guard for the
University of Maryland’s Center for Advanced Study of Language. In 2006, he was hired by the CIA in
Langley, Virginia. One year later, the CIA posted him in Geneva to maintain computer network security.
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
While working at the NSA office in Hawaii in 2013, Snowden grew increasingly disturbed by how the NSA was
spying on ordinary citizens through their phone and internet data. He began compiling a dossier filled with
information on the NSA’s mass surveillance practices. He then contacted documentary filmmaker
, as well as journalists
, and Barton Gellman, enlisting them to leak the documents he had collected.
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.
On June 5, 2013,
leaked documents demonstrating that Verizon was sharing all of its user data with the NSA. The next day,
The Washington Times
broke the story about PRISM, a surveillance program that allows the NSA to collect internet data from
citizens through their online activity on products and applications by Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, and Apple,
to name a few.
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.
On June 9, 2013, Snowden revealed his identity through
, stating, “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong.”
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.)
Whether you think Snowden is a patriot or a traitor, one thing’s for sure: Snowden’s NSA leaks have
encouraged the public to really think about our right to privacy in a digital age.