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Edward Snowden According To Wikipedia

Edward Joseph Snowden (born June 21, 1983)[1] is an American former technical contractor for the National Security Agency(NSA) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee who leaked details of top-secret American and British government mass surveillance programs to the press.[3][4]

Working primarily with Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian (London), which published a series of exposés based on Snowden's disclosures in June 2013, Snowden revealed information about a variety of classified intelligence programs, including the interception of US and European telephone metadata and the PRISM and Tempora Internet surveillance programs. Snowden said the leaks were an effort "to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them."[4][5][6]

On June 14, 2013, US federal prosecutors filed a sealed complaint, made public on June 21,[7][8] charging Snowden with theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information, and willful communication of classifiedintelligence to an unauthorized person; the latter two allegations are under the Espionage Act.[9]

Snowden's leaks are said to rank among the most significant breaches in the history of the NSA.[10] Matthew M. Aid, an intelligence historian in Washington, said disclosures linked to Snowden have "confirmed longstanding suspicions that NSA's surveillance in this country is far more intrusive than we knew."[10]

NSA surveillance disclosures

Media disclosures

The Guardian front page on June 10, 2013

Snowden first made contact with documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras in January 2013.[11] According to Poitras, Snowden chose to contact her after seeing her report on William Binney, an NSA whistleblower, in The New York Times. She is a board member of theFreedom of the Press Foundation along with journalist Glenn Greenwald.[12] Greenwald, reporting for The Guardian, said he had been working with Snowden since February,[13] and Barton Gellman, writing for The Washington Post, says his first "direct contact" was on May 16.[14] However, Gellman alleges Greenwald was only involved after the Post declined to guarantee publication of the full documents within 72 hours.[14] Gellman says he told Snowden "we would not make any guarantee about what we published or when... Snowden replied succinctly, 'I regret that we weren't able to keep this project unilateral.' Shortly afterward he made contact with Glenn Greenwald of the British newspaper The Guardian."[14]

Snowden communicated using encrypted email,[11] using the codename "Verax," meaning truth-teller in Latin. He asked not to be quoted at length for fear of identification by semantic analysis.[14]

According to Gellman, prior to their first meeting in person, Snowden wrote, "I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions, and that the return of this information to the public marks my end."[14] Snowden also told Gellman that until the articles were published, the journalists working with him would also be at risk from the United States Intelligence Community, whom Snowden said "will most certainly kill you if they think you are the single point of failure that could stop this disclosure and make them the sole owner of this information."[14]

Snowden described his CIA experience in Geneva as "formative," stating that the CIA deliberately got a Swiss banker drunk and encouraged him to drive home. When the latter was arrested, a CIA operative offered to intervene and later recruited the banker. Swiss President Ueli Maurer commented, "It does not seem to me that it is likely that this incident played out as it has been described by Snowden and by the media."[15] The revelations come at a sensitive time for US-Swiss relations as the Swiss government attempts to pass legislation allowing for more banking transparency.[16]

Snowden explained his actions saying: "I don't want to live in a society that does these sort of things [surveillance on its citizens]... I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded."[17]

Snowden's identity was made public by The Guardian at his request[13] on June 9. He explained his reasoning for forgoing anonymity: "I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong."[6] He added that by revealing his identity he hoped to protect his colleagues from being subjected to a hunt to determine who had been responsible for the leaks.[18]


In May 2013, Snowden was permitted temporary leave from his position at the NSA in Hawaii, on the pretext of receiving treatment for his epilepsy.[6] According to local real estate agents, Snowden and his girlfriend moved out of their home on May 1, leaving nothing behind.[19] On May 20, Snowden flew to the Chinese territory of Hong Kong.[20][21]He was staying in a Hong Kong hotel when the initial articles revealing information about the NSA that he had leaked were published.[20][22]

News stories based on documents disclosed by Snowden were as follows:

  • On June 5, The Guardian released a top secret order of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) that ordered a business division of Verizon Communications to provide "on an ongoing daily basis" metadata for all telephone calls "wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls" and all calls made "between the United States and abroad."[23]
  • On June 6, The Guardian and The Washington Post revealed the existence of PRISM, a clandestine electronic surveillance program that allegedly allows the NSA to access e-mail, web searches, and other Internet traffic in realtime.[24][25]
  • On June 9, The Guardian revealed Boundless Informant, a system that "details and even maps by country the voluminous amount of information [the NSA] collects from computer and telephone networks."
  • On June 12, the South China Morning Post disclosed that the NSA has been hacking into computers in China and Hong Kong since 2009.[26]
  • On June 17, The Guardian reported that the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), a British intelligence agency, had intercepted foreign politicians' communications at the 2009 G-20 London Summit.[27]
  • On June 20, The Guardian revealed two secret documents, signed by Attorney General Eric Holder, describing the rules by which the NSA determines whether targets of investigations are foreign or domestic.[28]
  • On June 21, The Guardian made further disclosures about 'Tempora,' an 18-month-old British operation by GCHQ to intercept and store mass quantities of fiber-optic traffic.[29]
  • On June 23, the South China Morning Post reported that Snowden had said the NSA had hacked Chinese mobile-phone companies to collect millions of text messages and had also hacked Tsinghua University in Beijing and the Asian fiber-optic network operator Pacnet. The newspaper said Snowden provided documents that listed details of specific episodes during a four-year period.[30][31] According to Glenn Greenwald, "What motivated that leak though was a need to ingratiate himself to the people of Hong Kong and China."[32]
  • On June 25, Greenwald reported Snowden claims that he had sent files with NSA secrets to associates for his personal insurance, and that their contents would be revealed should something untoward happen to him.[32]
  • On June 29, Der Spiegel reported that the NSA had planted bugs in EU offices in Washington, New York, and Brussels, and had infiltrated their computer networks, according to documents provided by Snowden.[33][34]


This section may be slanted towards recent events. Please try to keep recent events in historical perspective. (June 2013)

United States domestic response

Federal government

The U.S. Director of National Intelligence, James R. Clapper, said that Snowden's "reckless disclosures" had resulted in "significant misimpressions" in the media.[35] The NSA formally requested that the Department of Justice launch a criminal investigation into Snowden's actions.[35] On June 14, 2013, prosecutors charged Snowden with espionage and theft of government property.[7]

Reactions to Snowden's disclosures among members of Congress were varied.

Representative Thomas Massie (R-KY) said: "Whether or not this program was authorized by Congress, it seems to me that this is an unconstitutional activity ... Which would make it illegal, and he should have some kind of immunity."[36] Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) said: "If it is the case that the federal government is seizing millions of personal records about law-abiding citizens, and if it is the case that there are minimal restrictions on accessing or reviewing those records, then I think Mr. Snowden has done a considerable public service by bringing it to light."[37]

Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner called Snowden "a 'traitor' who has put Americans at risk."[38] Many in Congress joined Boehner[39] in calling for Snowden's arrest, such as Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Senator;[40] Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations; House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA);[41] Representative Mike Rogers (R-MI), chair of the House Intelligence Committee;[42] and Representative Peter King, former chair of the House Homeland Security Committee;[43] among others.[36][44][45][46][47][48]

Department of Defense

On June 18, General Keith Alexander, the Director of the National Security Agency, testified before the US Select Committee on Intelligence that the agency would work with the director of national intelligence to take steps to prevent future removals of classified information by implementing a "two-person rule and oversight" and put in place measures to block people from taking information out of their system. Andy Greenberg, Forbes staff, described this as "...something similar to the one implemented in some cases by the military after Army private Bradley Manning was able to write hundreds of thousands of secret files to CDs and leak them to WikiLeaks. The rule required that anyone copying data from a secure network onto portable storage media does so with a second person who ensures he or she isn't also collecting unauthorized data."[49]

As of June 2013, the US army has blocked access to parts of the Guardian website for thousands of defense personnel across the country.[50]

Press and public
Unbalanced scales.svg
The neutrality of this section is disputed. Please do not remove this message until the dispute is resolved(June 2013)

According to a Gallup poll conducted June 10–11, 2013, 44 percent of Americans thought it was right for Snowden to share the information with the press while 42 percent thought it was wrong.[51] A USA Today/Pew Research poll conducted June 12–16 found that 49 percent thought the release of information served the public interest while 44 percent thought it harmed it. The same poll found that 54 percent felt a criminal case should be brought against Snowden, while 38 percent thought a criminal case should not be brought.[52][53] In a Washington Post/ABC News poll conducted June 12–16, 43 percent said Snowden should be charged with a crime, while 48 percent said he should not be.[54]

Hours after Snowden revealed his identity, a We the People petition was posted[55] 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."[56][57] The petition attained 100,000 signatures within two weeks.[58][59]

Public commentary about Snowden's leaks was mixed. Former Vice President Dick Cheney called Snowden a traitor,[60] while former member of Congress and libertarian icon Ron Paul said Americans should be thankful for people like Snowden, who he said had done "a great service to the American people by exposing the truth about what our government is doing in secret."[61]

Journalist Glenn Greenwald, who received the leaked documents, praised Snowden, who he said had done a service by revealing the surveillance on the American public.[62][63] 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."[64]John Cassidy, also of The New Yorker, called Snowden "a hero," and said that "in revealing the colossal scale of the US government's eavesdropping on Americans and other people around the world, [Snowden] has performed a great public service that more than outweighs any breach of trust he may have committed."[65] CNN columnist Douglas Rushkoff also called Snowden's leak an act of heroism.[66]

Snowden was also praised by some political commentators for exposing secret government surveillance to the public, among them Chris Hedges[67] and Michael Moore[68] on the left; and Glenn Beck,[68] Matt Drudge,[69] Alex Jones,[70] and Michael Savage[71] on the right.

Other commentators were more critical of Snowden's methods and motivations,[72] and some expressed particular concern about his seeking refuge in Hong Kong.[73][74][75]For instance, New York Times columnist David Brooks accused Snowden of betraying the Constitution, stating that "the founders did not create the United States so that some solitary 29-year-old could make unilateral decisions about what should be exposed."[76] In response, Amy Davidson called Brooks' perspective "odd" because theFounding Fathers of the United States created the Constitution to allow a "solitary voice" to be heard despite any power structures and "they would not want a twenty-nine-year-old to feel so overcome with gratitude for his social betters—so humbled that they had noticed him—that he would be silent."[77] Conservative Republican political commentator and blogger Erick Erickson criticized Snowden for fleeing "to the Communists."[38] Jeffrey Toobin of The New Yorker, while stating that news leaks are "normal, even indispensable" in a society with a free press, characterized Snowden's approach as "reckless," saying that "all of Snowden's secrets may wind up in the hands of the Chinese government—which has no commitment at all to free speech or the right to political dissent."[78]

The editors of Bloomberg News argued that the while Snowden's leaks "were a crime that has to be prosecuted" and that the government ought to prosecute Snowden, they argued that the media's focus on Snowden takes attention away from issues of U.S. government surveillance, the interpretations of the Patriot Act, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court actions, all of which are "what really matters in all this".[79] Alex Berenson, a former The New York Times reporter and a writer of seven spy novels, argued that the federal government should have flown a representative into Hong Kong to offer Snowden to do a testimony in front of the U.S. Congress and receive a fair criminal trial, as that had the possibility of preventing further unintended disclosures of classified information to other countries.[80]

Bruce Schneier, a computer security specialist who has written about mass surveillance and Internet privacy, remarked, "I consider Snowden a hero for whistleblowing ... but not for revealing specific operational secrets to the Chinese government."[81]

The ACLU sued the Obama administration over the issue of NSA surveillance.[82]

Some current and former US intelligence officials expressed concern that Chinese or Russian intelligence agents might have accessed Snowden's classified material,[83][84][85][86][87] a view echoed by several Kremlinologists.[88][89] According to David Major, a former senior FBI counter-intelligence officer and head of the Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies, "one of the highest targets has always been the NSA, one of the hardest targets for them ever to penetrate, [Russian intelligence] is going to look at this case as an opportunity, as a treasure trove of intelligence that [will be] exploited to the extent that they can."[90] A spokesperson for WikiLeaks challenged the "fabrication" and "propaganda by the administration that somehow Mr. Snowden is cooperating with Russian or Chinese authorities." The spokesperson added that "Mr. Snowden's material has been secured by the relevant journalist organizations prior to travel" and that Snowden had not been debriefed by the Chinese or Russians during his time in their territories.[83]

International responses

Human rights organizations

Human Rights Watch said that if Snowden were able to raise the issue of NSA mass surveillance without facing espionage charges, then he would not have left the United States in the first place.[91]

Widney Brown, Senior Director of Amnesty International, feared that if Snowden was forcibly transferred to the United States, it would put him at "great risk" of human rights violations.[92]

China and Hong Kong

According to the South China Morning Post (SCMP) a poll of Hong Kong residents conducted while Snowden was still in Hong Kong showed that half of the 509 respondents believed the Chinese government should not surrender Snowden to the United States if Washington raises such a request. According to the poll, 33 percent of Hong Kong residents think of Snowden as a hero, 12.8 percent described him as a traitor, 23 percent described him as "something in between," and the remainder said they could not comment.[93]


Hong Kong demonstration at US Consulate on June 15 in support of Snowden

On June 15, while Snowden was still in Hong Kong, Hong Kong chief executive CY Leung said: "When the relevant mechanism is activated, the Hong Kong SAR government will handle the case of Mr Snowden in accordance with the laws and established procedures of Hong Kong. Meanwhile, the government will follow up on any incidents related to the privacy or other rights of the institutions or people in Hong Kong being violated."[94] Hong Kong politician Albert Ho denounced the "unlawful, unjustified and unscrupulous" interference, and demanded the "the whole truth ... an unconditional apology ... and an assurance this interference will stop."[95] Hong Kong pan-democratlegislators Gary Fan and Claudia Mo said that "a dangerous precedent and will likely be used to justify similar actions" if Snowden was prosecuted.[96] During Snowden's stay, the two main political groups, the pan-democrats and pro-establishment camp, found rare agreement to support Snowden.[97][98] The DAB even organised a separate march to Government headquarters for Snowden.

Xu Peixi, a columnist from China Internet Information Center, wrote in English that "we appreciate and salute the efforts of Snowden et al, who have gambled their career, family, personal freedom, and even their life to let the global public know what the most powerful force in the world is doing with perhaps the central infrastructure of our age; to make the public aware that this force is acting in an unconstitutional manner and entirely contrary to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."[99] On June 20, the SCMPreported People's Daily and the Global Times editorials from the previous day stating respectively that the central Chinese government was unwilling to be involved in a "mess" caused by others, and that the Hong Kong government should follow the public opinion and not concern itself with Sino-US relations.[100] A Tsinghua Universitycommunications studies specialist, Liu Jianming, interpreted that the two articles as suggesting that the PRC government did not want further involvement in the case and that the HKSAR government should handle it independently.[100]

Following the filing of charges, Legco member Leung Kwok-hung asked Hongkongers to protest in the streets "to protect Snowden" and stated that the PRC government should ask HK to protect Snowden from extradition before the case goes to court.[101] Legco member Cyd Ho argued that before the Snowden case goes to court the PRC government "should now make its stance clear" to the HKSAR government.[101] Xinhua, China's official news agency, accused the United States of being the "biggest villain" in information technology attacks and that Snowden's leaks "demonstrate that the United States, which has long been trying to play innocent as a victim of cyber attacks, has turned out to be the biggest villain in our age."[102]

After Snowden left Hong Kong, Chinese-language newspapers such as the Ming Pao and the Oriental Daily expressed relief that Hong Kong no longer had the burden of the Snowden situation upon itself.[103] Mainland experts said that although the Central Government did not want to appear to be intervening in the matter, it was inconceivable that the Hong Kong government acted independently in a matter that could have far-reaching consequences for Sino-US relations. One expert suggested that by doing so, China had "returned the favor" for them not having accepted the asylum plea from Wang Lijun in February 2012.[104] After the US government criticized the PRC central government, accusing it of allowing Snowden to escape, the official People's Daily said that the central government did not assist Snowden's escape and that Snowden helped in "tearing off Washington's sanctimonious mask".[105]

On June 25, Chinese officials were confronted with what appears to be the first public legal challenge arising from the Snowden affair. Xie Yanyi, a Beijing-based human rights lawyer, announced that the Snowden had inspired him to ask the Ministry of Public Security, China's main security agency, to disclose "information on methods used by Chinese authorities to conduct surveillance on Chinese citizens," according to the NGO Human Rights in China. "From a civil rights angle, China's monitoring of the Internet and cell phones is a very big problem," Xie said by telephone in an interview with Foreign Policy. [106][107]


Russian president Vladimir Putin said that Snowden's arrival in Moscow "really came as a surprise for us". Putin called Snowden a "free" person who has not committed any crime on Russian soil and therefore will not be extradited by the Russian government.[108] In Helsinki on June 25, Putin said Snowden remained in the transit area of Moscow'sSheremetyevo International Airport and thus had not formally entered the country. Snowden was free to leave and should do so, Putin said.[109] Putin's claims were received skeptically by some observers,[110] however, with one Moscow political analyst saying that "Snowden will fly out of Russia when the Kremlin decides he can go. He might not even be in the airport. The safest place would be a GRU apartment."[111]


US Senator Robert Menendez, chairman of the foreign relations panel, warned Ecuador that accepting Snowden "would severely jeopardize" preferential trade access the United States provides to Ecuador. "Our government will not reward countries for bad behavior." [112]

President Rafael Correa of Ecuador responded by offering a multimillion dollar donation for human rights training in the United States.[113]

"Ecuador offers the United States economic aid of US$23 million annually, similar to what we received with the trade benefits, with the intention of providing education about human rights," said a government spokesman. "Ecuador does not accept pressure or threats from anyone, nor does it trade with principles or submit them to mercantile interests, however important those may be."[114]

Correa criticized US media for focusing on Snowden, saying it is taking away attention from NSA spying.[115]

Reaction of whistleblowers

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.[116] 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."[117] Ray McGovern, a retired CIA officer who presented White House intelligence briefs for multiple presidents, said he agreed with Ellsberg in an interview where he also said "this time today I'm feeling much more hopeful for our democracy that I was feeling this time yesterday."[118]

William Binney, a whistleblower who, like Snowden, disclosed details of the NSA's mass surveillance activities, said that Snowden had "performed a really great public service to begin with by exposing these programs and making the government in a sense publicly accountable for what they're doing." However, after Snowden began leaking allegations that the US was "hacking into China," Binney felt, "he is transitioning from whistle-blower to a traitor."[119]

Thomas Drake, former senior executive of NSA and whistle blower as well, said that he feels "extraordinary kinship" with Snowden. "I actually salute him, given my experience over many, many years both inside and outside the system. Remember, I saw what he saw. I want to re-emphasize that. What he did was a magnificent act of civil disobedience. He's exposing the inner workings of the surveillance state. And it's in the public interest. It truly is."[119]

WikiLeaks founder 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."[120] After charges against Snowden were revealed, Assange released a statement that asked people to "step forward and stand with" Snowden.[121]

Departure from United States

Following Snowden's work for US government agencies and contractors, he left the United States May 20, 2013,[122] first for Hong Kong and then traveled to Moscow on June 23.

Possible political asylum

Albert Ho, a prominent legislator who acted as Snowden's Hong Kong lawyer, claimed that Snowden's departure from the territory was backed by the Chinese government via an unofficial intermediary.[123]

When asked why he had chosen to be in Hong Kong when the articles about NSA surveillance programs were disclosed to the public, Snowden explained:

NSA employees must declare their foreign travel 30 days in advance and are monitored. There was a distinct possibility I would be interdicted en route, so I had to travel with no advance booking to a country with the cultural and legal framework to allow me to work without being immediately detained. Hong Kong provided that. Iceland could be pushed harder, quicker, before the public could have a chance to make their feelings known, and I would not put that past the current US administration.[124]

Snowden said that he was predisposed "to seek asylum in a country with shared values," and that his ideal choice would be Iceland.[4][6] TheInternational Modern Media Institute, an Icelandic freedom of speech advocacy organization issued a statement offering Snowden legal advice and assistance in gaining asylum.[125] Iceland's ambassador to China, Kristin Arnadottir, pointed out that asylum could not be granted to Snowden because Icelandic law requires that such applications be made from within the country.[126]

Snowden vowed to challenge any extradition attempt by the US government, and he was reported to have approached Hong Kong human rights lawyers.[127] In an interview with Hong Kong's South China Morning Post, Snowden said that he planned to remain in Hong Kong until "asked to leave."[128] He added that his intention was to let the "courts and people of Hong Kong" decide his fate.[129]

Media reports emerged that the British government was strongly discouraging airlines from allowing Snowden to board any flight bound for the United Kingdom.[130][131] The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees stated that if Snowden were to apply for refugee status in Hong Kong he would receive no special treatment because Hong Kong was not a signatory to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and does not allow refugees to settle in the city.[132]

Ecuador embassy car in front ofSheremetyevo Airport in Moscow on June 23, 2013.

On June 20 and 21, a representative of WikiLeaks said that a chartered jet had been prepared to transport Snowden to Iceland,[133] and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange announced that he was brokering a discussion between Snowden and the Government of Iceland for Snowden to possibly be granted asylum in Iceland.[134]

Passport revoked and Snowden leaves Hong Kong for Russia

I'm not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker.
—Barack Obama, June 27, 2013[135]

On June 23, US officials said that Snowden's US passport had been revoked.[136] On the same day, Snowden boarded the commercialAeroflot flight SU213 from Hong Kong to Moscow, accompanied bySarah Harrison of WikiLeaks[137][138] and landed at 13:10 GMT.[139]Hong Kong authorities said that Snowden had not been detained as requested by the United States because the United States' extradition request had not fully complied with Hong Kong law[140][141][142] and there was no legal basis to prevent Snowden from leaving.[143][144][Notes 1] Hong Kong lawmaker Albert Ho, an attorney who had been assisting Snowden, later told reporters that the Hong Kong government had made clear, through a middleman, that the government wanted Snowden to leave the territory and would not interfere with his attempt to do so.[147] Ho told Reuters that Beijing was probably behind the decision to ask Snowden to leave, saying "the Hong Kong government didn't have much of a role. Its role was to receive instructions to not stop him at the airport."[148]

On June 24, Julian Assange told reporters that WikiLeaks had paid for Snowden's lodging in Hong Kong and his flight out. Assange said Snowden was "bound for Ecuador," via Russia and perhaps other countries as well.[149]

Upon Snowden's arrival in Moscow, Ecuador's foreign minister, Ricardo Patiño, announced that Snowden had requested asylum in Ecuador.[150] The United States has anextradition treaty with Ecuador, but it contains a political offense exception under which Ecuador can deny extradition if it determines that Snowden is being prosecuted for political reasons.[151]

On June 25, Russian president Vladimir Putin declared:"Our special services never worked with Mr. Snowden and aren’t working with him today...Mr. Snowden is a free man, and the sooner he chooses his final destination the better it is for us and for him".[152]

Personal life

Childhood, family and education

Snowden grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina.[153] His father, Lonnie Snowden, a resident of Pennsylvania, was an officer in the United States Coast Guard,[154] and his mother, a resident of Baltimore, Maryland, is a clerk at a federal court in Maryland.[153][155]

By 1999, Snowden had moved with his family to Ellicott City, Maryland, where he studied computing at Anne Arundel Community College[153] to gain the credits necessary to obtain a high school diploma, but he did not complete the coursework.[19] Snowden's father explained that his son missed several months of school owing to illness and, rather than return, took and passed the tests for his GED at a local community college.[156][6][157] Snowden worked online toward a Master's Degree at the University of Liverpool in 2011.[158] Having worked at a US military base in Japan, Snowden reportedly had a deep interest in Japanese popular culture and studied the Japanese language.[159] He also said he had a basic understanding of Mandarin, was deeply interested in martial arts, and listed Buddhism as his religion.[160]

On June 17, 2013, Snowden's father spoke in an interview on Fox TV, expressing concern about misinformation regarding his son being disseminated in the media. He described his son as "a sensitive, caring young man... He just is a deep thinker." While he is in agreement with his son in his opposition to the surveillance programs that he revealed, he asked his son to stop leaking and return home.[156]

Before leaving for Hong Kong Snowden lived with his girlfriend in WaipahuOahu, Hawaii.[161]

Political views

Snowden has said that in the 2008 presidential election he voted for third-party candidates. He has claimed he had been planning to make disclosures about NSA surveillance programs at the time, but he decided to wait because he "believed in Obama's promises." He was later disappointed that Obama "continued with the policies of his predecessor."[162] For the 2012 election, political donation records indicate that he contributed to the primary campaign of Ron Paul.[163][164]

Hundreds of archived online postings alleged by technology website Ars Technica to have been made by Snowden on its chat rooms under the pseudonym "TheTrueHOOHA" have been suggested as documenting some of Snowden's views on various political topics.[165] In a January 2009 entry, the individual writing as TheTrueHOOHA exhibited strong support for America's security state apparatus and said he believed leakers of classified information "should be shot in the balls".[166] However, by February 2010 he was framing privacy debates in Constitutional terms: "I wonder, how well would envelopes that became transparent under magical federal candlelight have sold in 1750? 1800? 1850? 1900? 1950?". The last known public posting of TheTrueHOOHA was made on May 21, 2012.

In accounts published in June 2013, interviewers noted that Snowden's laptop displayed stickers supporting internet freedom organizations including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Tor Project.[6] Summing up his activities in a clandestine interview with the South China Morning Post, he said, "I'm neither traitor nor hero. I'm an American." [167]


On May 7, 2004, Snowden enlisted in the United States Army as a Special Forces recruit but did not complete the training.[1][168] He said he wanted to fight in the Iraq warbecause he "felt like [he] had an obligation as a human being to help free people from oppression."[6] However, he said he was discharged four months later on September 28 after having broken both of his legs in a training accident.

His next employment was as a National Security Agency (NSA) security guard for the Center for Advanced Study of Language at the University of Maryland,[169] before, he said, joining the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to work on IT security.[170] In May 2006 Snowden wrote in Ars Technica, an online forum for gamers, hackers and hardware tinkerers, that he had no trouble getting work because he was a "computer wizard." In August he wrote about a possible path in government service, perhaps involving China, but said it "just doesn't seem like as much 'fun' as some of the other places."[168]

Snowden said that in 2007 the CIA stationed him with diplomatic cover in Geneva, Switzerland, where he was responsible for maintaining computer network security.[171]Snowden told The Guardian he left the agency in 2009 for a private contractor inside an NSA facility on a United States military base in Japan.[6] NSA Director Keith Alexanderhas said that Snowden held a position at the NSA for the twelve months prior to his next job as a consultant.[49] Individuals occupying these positions may have been required to obtain a Top Secret Sensitive Compartmented Information clearances, which requires a special background investigation. Snowden would have been subjected to drug testing and required to take and pass a polygraph test.[172]

Snowden described his life as "very comfortable," earning a salary of "roughly US $200,000."[173] At the time of his departure from the US in May 2013, he had been working for consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton for less than three months as a system administrator inside the NSA at the Kunia Regional SIGINT Operations Center in Hawaii.[174][175][176] Snowden was employed on a salary of $122,000.[177] Snowden said he had taken a pay cut to work at Booz Allen,[124] and that he sought employment in order to gather data on NSA surveillance around the world so he could leak it.[178] The firm said Snowden's employment was terminated on June 10 "for violations of the firm's code of ethics and firm policy."[177][179]

According to Reuters, a source "with detailed knowledge on the matter" stated that Booz Allen's hiring screeners detected possible discrepancies in Snowden's résumé regarding his education since some details "did not check out precisely", but decided to hire him anyway; Reuters stated that the element which triggered these concerns, or the manner in which Snowden satisfied the concerns, were not known.[180] The résumé stated that Snowden attended computer-related classes at Johns Hopkins University. A spokesperson for Johns Hopkins said that the university did not find records to show that Snowden attended the university, and suggested that he may instead have attended Advanced Career Technologies, a private for-profit organization which operated as "Computer Career Institute at Johns Hopkins."[180] A spokesperson for University College of the University of Maryland said that Snowden had attended a summer session at a University of Maryland campus in Asia.[180]


A bipartisan group of eight Senators prepared legislation that would require government disclosure of criteria used to interpret laws justifying surveillance of the type revealed by The Guardian and The Washington Post.