Edward Snowden: biography
Edward Snowden is an American technical assistant, known worldwide for the leakage of several surprising revelations of the U.S. intelligence services regarding the mass surveillance of citizens. Since 2013, his name appeared on the front pages of the media, as information about violations of rights and freedoms of millions of Americans and Europeans by the National Security Agency (NSA) hit the world community.
Currently, Snowden lives in Russia, where he has been granted political asylum. The United States put him on the international wanted list, charging him with theft and disclosure of state secrets, which is regarded as a threat to the security of the country.
Childhood and youth
Edward Snowden was born on June 21, 1983, in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, the U.S. His father, Lonnie, was an officer in the Coast Guard, and his mother, Elizabeth, is a clerk at the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. In the family, Edward is the youngest child; he has an older sister Jessica, was a lawyer at the Federal Judicial Center in Washington, D.C. In 2001, his parent filed for divorce.
Snowden spent his childhood and youth in his native town, where the future CIA and the NSA employee received a secondary education. In 1999, Snowden's family moved to Maryland. There Edward enrolled at Anne Arundel Community College, where he attended preparatory courses to go to University.
However, for health reasons he did not finish the course. Edward had to continue his studies from home, which did not prevent Snowden in 2011 to obtain a master's degree at the University of Liverpool, England.
In 2004, Edward Snowden joined the U.S. Armed forces as a reservist, where he was discharged a few months after receiving a severe injury to both legs. From that moment on, Snowden's biography was directly related to computer science, programming and IT-technologies, in which the guy showed professionalism and exceptional talent, despite the lack of formal confirmation of the specialist's qualification.
Service at the CIA
Edward Snowden confidently and rapidly climbed the corporate ladder. The first professional skills the specialist received at the NSA, working as a security guard at the University of Maryland's Center for Advanced Study of Language. A few years later, Snowden was hired by the CIA. Under diplomatic cover he was sent to Geneva as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. There, his responsibilities included the implementation of computer network security. According to Edward, his work in Switzerland opened his eyes to the fact that he was a special tool in the U.S. intelligence services, bringing people more harm than good.
In 2009, the programmer resigned from the CIA and began working in the consulting companies Booz Allen Hamilton cooperating with the NSA, performing the duties of an external contractor.
Snowden did not approve of the activities of the U.S. National Security Agency, in the future, telling the American public the truth about the illegal actions of the government against the world. In this regard, in 2013, the special agent of the NSA decided to act at the behest of his heart and reveal to people the secret information exposing the American special services in mass surveillance of people.
Snowden has repeatedly noted that he wanted to declassify the illegal actions of the NSA and the CIA back in 2008. However, he hoped that with the coming to power of Barack Obama, the situation in the U.S. secret services would change. Soon it became evident to the programmer that the new U.S. President continued the policy of his predecessors and did not intend to interfere with the activities of "spies."
Exposure and criminal prosecution
Snowden's work on declassification of crimes of the American intelligence services started in 2013. Then the former CIA and NSA agent contacted film producer Laura Poitras, American journalist Glenn Greenwald, and publicist Barton Gellman, to say that he was ready to provide classified information.
The communication was held using Snowden's encrypted e-mail messages through which the guy leaked 200,000 secret documents. Their status of secrecy exceeded previously published materials on WikiLeaks on the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. After that, a scandal broke out, and the declared information produced an effect of a thermonuclear bomb in the media. In the future, Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, said that thanks to his international non-profit organization, Snowden did not lose his freedom.
The leaked information of Edward Snowden contained facts about the surveillance of the public in 60 countries and 35 government agencies across Europe by the U.S. intelligence services. The programmer declassified information about the PRISM program, through which special agents conducted mass surveillance of negotiations between Americans and foreign citizens through the Internet and mobile communications.
According to Edward, the PRISM program allowed the NSA to listen to the voice and video chats, view e-mails, and photos, track sent files and obtain all the information of users of social networks. A large number of popular services participated in this operation: Microsoft (Hotmail), Facebook, Google (Gmail), Skype, Yahoo!, AOL, YouTube, Apple, and Paltalk.
Also, one more sensational exposure made by Snowden was the secret ruling of The United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. According to it, the largest mobile operator, Verizon, was obliged to daily transmit metadata of all calls made in the United States to NSA. Based on this ruling, American journalists supposed that other American mobile operators could also be involved in such obligations.
Besides, because of Snowden, the American public learned about the existence of the tracking program called Tempora which provides interception of Internet traffic and phone calls. He also leaked the information about an integrated iPhone software that made it possible to monitor users' activity.
One of the most resonant leakages of Snowden was the disclosure of the fact of interception by the U.S. intelligence agents of telephone conversations of foreign politicians and officials who participated in the G20 summit, held in 2009 in London. The number of victims of illegal actions of the NSA included many well-known politicians from around the world.
According to the Pentagon, Snowden owns 1.7 million secret documents, most of which relate to vital information about the operations of the U.S. Army and Navy, Marines and air force. This information, according to journalists, will be gradually disclosed to harm the national interests of the United States and the NSA.
After the decision to reveal his identity, Edward Snowden, realizing that for this act he would have to pay dearly, went on the run.
At first, the programmer was hiding in Hong Kong, where he planned to get political asylum. After the announcement of the formal charges by the U.S. authorities of theft and disclosure of secret state secrets, which occurred on the day of the 30th birthday of Edward, the spy appeared in Moscow at the airport "Sheremetyevo" for unknown reasons. But without a Russian visa, he was forced to remain in the transit zone of the airport.
According to media reports, in Russia, the programmer was met by a car with diplomatic plates of Venezuela, which took Snowden in an unknown direction. Presumably, Edward intended to go to South America through Moscow.
On June 30, 2013, he asked for political asylum in Russia, and the next day, Russian President Vladimir Putin allowed the programmer to remain in the country, provided that he would stop leaking the state secrets of the American government publicly.
At the same time, Edward Snowden filed a petition for clemency to the American authorities, referring to the fact that he did not see anything wrong or illegal in his actions. The American authorities have a controversial attitude to the revelations of Snowden, believing that the programmer is obliged to stand trial because he leaked the U.S. state secrets. The American intelligence employees think that the act of the former CIA and NSA officer was fierce and illegal, causing irreparable damage to the U.S. intelligence service.
In turn, the European Union has a different attitude to the issue of the prosecution of Snowden. The European Parliament has repeatedly called on the E.U. to abandon the imposition of punishment for Snowden. The members of the organization want to provide him with protection, which will make it impossible for him to be extradited to the United States or return by a third party.
In July 2016, CIA Director of that time, John O. Brennan said that Snowden should return to the United States and face trial. John did not support the position of former Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder, who called Snowden's activities "service to society." The former head of the CIA does not believe that thanks to Edward, the discussion of socially significant issues began in the country.
In 2016, the ex-employee of the National Security Agency gave an interview to the Financial Times about his life in the Russian capital. Snowden admitted that his knowledge of the Russian language was only enough to make a restaurant order. Snowden added that he lived according to North American Eastern time and spent most of his day on the Internet, but "it has always been that way in his life."
Snowden has repeatedly expressed his opinion on Russian anti-terrorist laws. The former employee of the U.S. intelligence services criticized the list of laws (The Yarovaya law) on his Twitter account, which imposes a life sentence for international terrorism and obliges operators, messengers and social networks to store information about all the communications of users.
"This law harms both Russians and Russia. Rather than entering into force in 2018, it should be repealed or amended."
In 2017, the authorities of many countries of the world still invited the former employee of the U.S. intelligence services to speak on several issues, as well as to give lectures.
"The most wanted man in the world," Edward Snowden after the leakage and publication of classified information became one of the most exciting people for writers and filmmakers who thought to make him a part of their creations. He was the protagonist of the documentary Citizenfour, filmed by Laura Poitras based on an interview with the former CIA and NSA officer.
The film about Edward Snowden won the prestigious Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. Its bold plot from the first to the last seconds carried sensational information revealing classified facts.
In 2016, the world saw a new project of film director Oliver Stone called Snowden, dedicated to the story of the former IT-specialist of the U.S. intelligence services hiding from the evil American government. Actors Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, and Zachary Quinto played the leading roles in the movie.
The private life of Edward Snowden because of the precautions taken after his big revelations has become a mystery. He mentioned his family only once in 2013, saying that he had a wife and children. It is known, that since 2009, he had been dating a pole dancer, Lindsay Mills, with whom he lived together on the Hawaiian island of Waipahu.
There were rumors that in 2013 the couple broke up. But director Oliver Stone, the author of the film about Snowden, denied this information. The American spy still lives together with his significant other in Russia. This fact is supported by their joint photos that appear on Lindsay's personal Instagram account.
In 2013, the former employee of the Russian special services Anna Chapman suggested that Edward Snowden should marry her. She wrote on Twitter about it, but users believe that she only did it to promote herself.
According to journalists who interviewed Edward in Hong Kong, Snowden remains a good-natured and intelligent man, whose character is full of romance and idealism. The programmer leads a quiet and healthy lifestyle, practices Buddhism, spends a lot of time at the computer and enjoys reading books on the history of Russia. At the same time, the whistle-blower of the NSA and the CIA adheres to a vegetarian diet and drinks neither alcohol nor coffee.
Edward Snowden now
Edward Snowden has a net worth of $8.6 Million. The programmer has repeatedly stated that he was ready to move to the United States, provided that an open trial with the presence of a jury is held. But no head of state has yet given Snowden such guarantees. In 2017, journalists suggested that Moscow would no longer hide Edward on the territory of Russia, but would give him to the new U.S. President Donald Trump, but the programmer again managed to extend his residence permit.
In 2018, the American ceased public relations for six months. In autumn, he participated in a video bridge with the Management Center Innsbruck (MCI) of Comprehensive University Innsbruck. Edward said that he was busy managing Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF).
As part of the Foundation's activity, Snowden is developing a program that protects sources of information from external threats. According to the former CIA officer, he is primarily concerned about the problems of American society, which he continues to try to solve. At the same time, Edward does not stop criticizing the Russian government and reforms.
In November, Snowden gave a lecture to Mossad executives, providing them with video evidence of the NSA's interference with Israeli intelligence activities. Snowden does not disclose any information about new conferences in 2019, but it is assumed that the programmer will continue to expose the U.S. intelligence services.
Snowden comments on his actions the following way:
"I carefully studied each document to make sure that its disclosure would serve the legitimate interests of society. There are documents of all types, the disclosure of which would have great consequences, but I do not pass them, because my goal is to give liberty, and not to harm people."
Commenting on the control by the authorities of means of communication, Snowden noted that such a situation would lead to a crisis in the future:
"These activities in the future may be misinterpreted and used to harm you as an individual. Even without any direct intention on the part of the government to create any trouble for you. The state of security is that the priority of security is over everything."
About using Google and Skype:
"I don't use Google or Skype. These are excellent services, but completely unreliable in terms of data security. We should not trust them, and certainly, these programs should not be used for personal communication."
American officials have repeatedly urged the informant to "recognize the circumstances as they are," to accept the fact that he faces a significant prison term in the United States, but Snowden was always categorical:
"Circumstances are not an open court nor a fair trial."