Edward Snowden: The NSA Whistleblower

Edward Joseph Snowden was a US computer specialist of the CIA, and until June 10, 2013, was an employee of Booz Allen Hamilton, the information technology consultant to the National Security Agency. He publicly revealed details of several mass surveillance programs of the US and British government.

Born in Elizabeth City, Snowden grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina. The father, Lonnie Snowden, was an officer of the Coast Guard of the United States, while his mother is employed by the federal court of Maryland. Snowden moved with his family in Ellicott City, in 1999, where he studied computer science at the Anne Arundel Community College but did not complete high school. Snowden's father explained that his son has missed several months of school because of an illness, and he finished his studies in a private school, where he graduated. He then obtained a master's degree from the University of Liverpool in 2011.

In May 2004 Snowden enlisted in the army of the United States with the rank of a recruit of Special Forces but did not complete the training as a result of an accident in which he broke both legs. In September of the same year, he was dismissed. He stated that he wanted to enlist to fight in Iraq because he felt obliged, as a human being, to free people from oppression. Subsequently, he deals with security on behalf of the National Security Agency at the University of Maryland, for before being recruited by the CIA and deal with information security.

In 2007 working under diplomatic cover for the CIA in Geneva, he begins to have access to confidential documents and after having doubts about the authenticity of the Agency, he leaves in 2009 in favor of Dell, the manufacturer of personal computers which assigns him to a facility of the National Security Agency in Japan.

His last job before departure from the United States was in Hawaii for the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton for which he worked for less than three months in 2013 as a system administrator within a structure of the NSA. The company, which hired him despite some possible discrepancies in his educational curriculum, ended the relationship with Snowden on June 10, 2013, for violating the company's code of conduct and stated that, at the time, his salary was of the order of $ 122,000 per year.

In May 2006 Snowden wrote on the online forum Ars Technica, he had no trouble finding work because he was a computer whiz. In August he wrote about a possible path in government service, perhaps in China, but said China just does not seem the most suitable to work. Before leaving for Hong Kong, Snowden has been living with his girlfriend in Waipahu, Oahu, Hawaii. Having worked at a military base in the United States in Japan, Snowden reported to have a deep interest in Japanese popular culture and studying the Japanese language. He also claimed to have a basic knowledge of Mandarin Chinese and being interested in martial arts and Buddhism.

On 17 June 2013, Snowden's father, in an interview with FOX TV, felt concerned about the misinformation in the media, describing his son as a caring and sensitive young man. Even agreeing with his son on his opposition to the monitoring programs, he asked him to stop his activities and return home. On July 2013, his father retracted the advice given to him, since there cannot be a fair trial in the US and advises Edward to stay in Russia.

On 29 October, the European Parliament with 284 votes in favor, compared to 281 against, asked member states to provide protection and to withdraw any criminal appeal against Edward Snowden and prevent him from extradition or surrender to third countries recognizing its whistleblower statutes and international human rights.

The first contact between Snowden and documentarian Laura Poitras takes place in January 2013. According to Poitras, Snowden chose to contact her after seeing her relationship to William Binney, an NSA informant, on The New York Times. She was a board member of the Foundation on press freedom together with the journalist Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald, a reporter for The Guardian, said he had worked with Snowden since February, and Barton Gellman, who writes for the Washington Post, says that his first direct contact was May 16. However, Gellman says that Greenwald was involved only after the Washington Post refused to guarantee the publication of the complete documents within 72 hours.

Gellman says he told Snowden, we do not guarantee when and what I will post. Snowden replied succinctly, I regret that we could not keep this unilateral project. Shortly after he came into contact with Glenn Greenwald of the British newspaper The Guardian. Snowden communicated via encrypted e-mail, with the name in code Verax, which means true in Latin. He asked not to be identified for fear of long identification with semantic analysis.

According to Gellman, before their first in-person meeting, Snowden wrote, I know that I suffer for my actions and that the return of this information to the public marks the end of me. Snowden also warned Gellman that once the articles are published, the journalists who had collaborated with him would become targets of the CIA. Snowden described his experience with the CIA to Geneva as a trainee, stating that the CIA, made a Swiss banker drunk and encouraged him to drive him up to the house.

When the latter was arrested, an agent of the CIA offered to intervene in aid, to finally recruit him. The Swiss Federal Councillor Ueli Maurer commented that she does not think it's likely that this incident happened as described by Snowden and the media. The revelations come at a sensitive time for US-Swiss relations since the Swiss government tries to pass a law that allows for more banking transparency. Later, the Public Guardian also reports of US intelligence to the diplomatic damage of the European Union.

In May 2013, Snowden was allowed temporary leave from his post at the NSA in Hawaii, on the pretext of receiving treatment for his epilepsy. According to local realtors, Snowden and his girlfriend moved out of their home on May 1, leaving nothing. On May 20, Snowden flew to Hong Kong. He was in a hotel in Hong Kong when the first articles that reveal information about the NSA had leaked were published.

On 5 June, The Guardian published a top secret order of the Foreign Surveillance Court (FISC), which ordered the company to a branch of Verizon Communications to provide daily with the meta data system all calls within the United States, including local phone calls and all calls made between the United States and abroad.

June 6th, The Guardian, and The Washington Post revealed the existence of PRISM, a clandestine electronic surveillance program that allows the NSA to access email, web searches, and more Internet traffic in real time. On June 9, the Guardian has revealed the existence of Informant without borders, a system which collects the details and even maps by country the voluminous amount of information for the NSA from computer and telephone networks.

On June 12, the South China Morning Post revealed that the NSA has made piracy in China and Hong Kong since 2009. On June 17, the Guardian reported that the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), a British intelligence agency, had intercepted the communications of foreign politicians at the summit G20 in 2009 in London. On June 20, the Guardian has revealed two secret documents signed by Attorney General Eric Holder, which describes the rules by which the NSA determines whether the investigation targets are foreign or domestic.

On June 21, the Guardian also learn more about Tempora, an operation of the British GCHQ dating back to 18 months before, to trap and store huge amounts of fiber optic traffic. On June 23, the Sunday Morning Post reported that Snowden had said that the NSA had violated the Chinese mobile phone companies to collect millions of text messages and had also breached the Tsinghua University in Beijing and the Asian operator of the optical fiber: Pacnet. According to the newspaper, Snowden provided documents with the details listed specific incidents over a period of four years.

June 29, Der Spiegel reported that the new documents produced by Snowden show that the NSA spied even diplomats of the European Union mission in the US.

The identity of Snowden was published by The Guardian, at his request, on June 9. He explained his reasoning for giving up anonymity: I have no intention to hide who I am because I know that I have not done anything wrong. He added that revealing his identity was hoping to protect his colleagues from being subjected to a hunt to determine who was responsible for the blow.

Through collaboration with Glenn Greenwald, a journalist for the Guardian, which published a series of reports based on his revelations took place in June 2013, Snowden revealed information about several secret intelligence programs, including the wiretap program between the United States and the European Union concerning the meta data communications, the PRISM, Tempora and Internet surveillance programs.

Snowden said that the revelations are an effort to inform the public about what is being done in their name and what is done against them. The Snowden revelations relate to some of the most significant violations of the history of the NSA. Matthew M. Aid, an intelligence historian Washington, said that his revelations have confirmed the long-held suspicions that the NSA surveillance in the United States is more invasive than we thought.

On 14 June 2013, the US Federal prosecutors have filed a complaint to Snowden, made public on June 21 on charges of theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information and willful communication of classified information to a person not authorized. The last two charges are subject to espionage law.


When asked why he had chosen to live in Hong Kong when the articles of the NSA surveillance programs were released to the public, Snowden said: The employees of the NSA must declare their trips abroad 30 days before and monitored. There was a distinct possibility that I would be intercepted on the road, so I had to travel without advance reservation, in a country with the cultural and legal framework to allow me to work without being immediately arrested. and countries with those conditions were Hong Kong and Iceland. it may have been prompted by the fact that the public would have the opportunity to make known his intentions.

Snowden said he was ready to seek asylum in a country with shared values, and that his ideal choice would be Iceland. The International Institute of Modern Media, Icelandic organization in defense of free speech said he wanted to offer Snowden legal advice and assistance in obtaining asylum. The Icelandic Ambassador to China, Kristin Arnadottir, stressed that asylum could not be granted because Snowden Icelandic law requires that these questions are taken from within the country. Snowden has vowed to challenge any extradition attempt by the Government of the United States and has been reported to have approached Hong Kong human rights lawyers.

In an interview with the Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post, Snowden said he had intended to stay in Hong Kong until he would not be asked to leave. He added that his intention was to let the courts and the people of Hong Kong would decide his fate. The media report that the British government has strongly discouraged companies to allow Snowden to board any flight to the United Kingdom.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said that if Snowden were to apply for refugee status to Hong Kong would not receive any special treatment since Hong Kong is not a signatory of the Convention of 1951 relating to the Status of Refugees and does not allow refugees to settle in the city.

On 20 and 21 June, a lawyer of Wikileaks said a chartered plane had been prepared for the transport of Snowden in Iceland, and Julian Assange announced that he was the intermediary of a discussion between Snowden and the Icelandic government to grant eventual asylum in Iceland. On June 23, US officials said the Snowden US passport had been revoked.

On that same day, Snowden was aboard a commercial flight Aeroflot, from Hong Kong to Moscow, accompanied by Sarah Harrison of Wikileaks. The authorities in Hong Kong said that Snowden was not detained as required by the United States because the request for extradition of the United States had not fully respected the right of Hong Kong.

Congressman Hong Kong Albert Ho, a lawyer who had been asked to assist Snowden, has also told reporters that the ruling Hong Kong had made it clear, through an intermediary, that would not interfere with his attempt to leave the territory. On June 24, the Chief Executive CY Leung finds that there was no legal basis to stop Edward Snowden so that would not leave Hong Kong, saying the case demonstrates the adhesion of the city to the status of law.

Although some in the US are unhappy with the departure of Snowden, both the local community and the international community expect Hong Kong to defend the Constitution, the rule of law, and to follow the procedural fairness of justice. The founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange on June 24 told the press that his organization had paid for the Snowden accommodation in Hong Kong and for his flight.

Assange said Snowden has been in flight for the Ecuador, through Russia and perhaps other countries. Snowden arrives in Moscow, the Foreign Minister of Ecuador, Ricardo Patiño, announced that Snowden had requested asylum in Ecuador. The United States has an extradition treaty with the Ecuador, but it contains an exception for political offenses under which Ecuador may refuse extradition if it considers that legal action is committed for political reasons.

The president of Venezuela Nicolás Maduro offered in July of 2013 the political and humanitarian asylum to Edward Snowden and also Nicaragua and Bolivia have joined the offer. In August 2013 Russia has granted temporary political asylum to Snowden, in which he could not leave the airport. Snowden has claimed to have no special relations of cooperation with the governments of China and Russia, where he currently resides with special permission of stay of three years granted in August 2014, and he never made definitive political asylum to the government in Moscow.