Edward Snowden

Edward Joseph Snowden (born June 21, 1983) is an American former technical contractor for the United States National Security Agency (NSA) and a former employee of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) who leaked details of several top-secret U.S. and British government mass surveillance programs to the press.

Snowden leaked the information, primarily to Glenn Greenwald of London’s The Guardian, in spring 2013 while employed as an ”infrastructure analyst” at NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. The Guardian in turn published a series of exposés in June–July 2013 and revealed programs such as 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.” Snowden’s leaks are said to rank among the most significant breaches in the history of the NSA.

On June 14, 2013, U.S. federal prosecutors charged Snowden with espionage and theft of government property.

Career in the U.S.

On May 7, 2004, Snowden enlisted in the United States Army as a Special Forces recruit but did not complete the training. He said he wanted to fight in the Iraq war because he ”felt like [he] had an obligation as a human being to help free people from oppression.” 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, before, he said, joining the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to work on IT security. In May 2006 Snowden wrote in Ars Technica, a technology news and information website, 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.”

Snowden said that in 2007 the CIA stationed him with diplomatic cover in Geneva, Switzerland, where he was responsible for maintaining computer network security. 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.”The revelations come at a sensitive time for US-Swiss relations as the Swiss government attempts to pass legislation allowing for more banking transparency.

The Guardian reported that Snowden left the agency in 2009 for a private contractor inside an NSA facility on a US military base in Japan later identified as Dell, which had substantial classified contracts. Snowden remained on the Dell payroll until early 2013. NSA Director Keith Alexander has said that Snowden held a position at the NSA for the twelve months prior to his next job as a consultant,with Top Secret Sensitive Compartmented Information clearances. According to The New York Times, Snowden took a Certified Ethical Hacker training course in 2010. USIS completed a background check on Snowden in 2011.

Snowden described his life as ”very comfortable”, earning a salary of ”roughly US $200,000.” 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 inside the NSA at the Kunia Regional SIGINT Operations Center in Hawaii, employed on a salary of $122,000. While intelligence officials have described his position there as a ”system administrator”, Snowden has claimed he was an ”infrastructure analyst”, which meant that his job was to look for new ways to break into Internet and telephone traffic around the world.He said he had taken a pay cut to work at Booz Allen, and that he sought employment in order to gather data on NSA surveillance around the world so he could leak it. The firm said Snowden’s employment was terminated on June 10 ”for violations of the firm’s code of ethics and firm policy.”

According to Reuters, a source ”with detailed knowledge on the matter” stated that Booz Allen’s hiring screeners found some details of his education ”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. 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.” 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. Snowden’s resume stated that he estimated that he would receive a University of Liverpool computer security master’s degree in 2013. A spokesperson for the university said that in 2011 Snowden registered for an online master’s degree program in computer security and that ”he is not active in his studies and has not completed the program.”

Before leaving for Hong Kong, Snowden resided in Waipahu, Hawaii with his girlfriend. According to local real estate agents, they moved out of their home on May 1, leaving nothing behind.

Motivations

Snowden’s identity was made public by The Guardian at his request on June 9, 2013. He explained: ”I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong.” 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. 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… My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.” When Snowden met with representatives of human rights organizations on July 12, he said:

The 4th and 5th Amendments to the Constitution of my country, Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and numerous statutes and treaties forbid such systems of massive, pervasive surveillance. While the US Constitution marks these programs as illegal, my government argues that secret court rulings, which the world is not permitted to see, somehow legitimize an illegal affair….

I believe in the principle declared at Nuremberg in 1945: ”Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience. Therefore individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring.”

Snowden further explained his motivations in an email sent to the Washington Post, saying that ‘whistleblowers before him…had been destroyed by the experience’, and that he wanted “to embolden others to step forward” by demonstrating that “they can win.”

Flight from the U.S.

Snowden left Hawaii for Hong Kong on May 20, 2013, and traveled on to Moscow on Sunday, June 23, 2013, as Hong Kong authorities were deliberating the US government’s request for his extradition.

Snowden explained his choice of first port of call thus:

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.

In Hong Kong

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

Snowden vowed to challenge any extradition attempt by the US government, and he was reported to have approached Hong Kong human rights lawyers. 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”. He added that his intention was to let the ”courts and people of Hong Kong” decide his fate.

Media reports emerged that the British government was strongly discouraging airlines from allowing Snowden to board any flight bound for the United Kingdom.

On June 20 and 21, a representative of WikiLeaks said that a chartered jet had been prepared to transport Snowden to Iceland, 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.

On June 23, US officials said that Snowden’s US passport had been revoked. On the same day, Snowden boarded the commercial Aeroflot flight SU213 from Hong Kong to Moscow, accompanied by Sarah Harrison of WikiLeaks.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 lawand there was no legal basis to prevent Snowden from leaving.

Snowden’s passage through Hong Kong inspired a local production team to produce a low-budget five-minute film titled Verax. The film, depicting the time Snowden spent hiding in the Mira Hotel while being unsuccessfully tracked down by the CIA and China’s Ministry of State Security, was uploaded to YouTube on June 25, 2013.

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.

In Moscow’s airport. Russia’s reaction

On Sunday, June 23, 2013, Snowden landed in one of Moscow’s international airports, Sheremetevo.Nobody saw Snowden get off the flight from Hong Kong.The Russian broadsheet daily Kommersant reported on the same day that Snowden was being awaited by a limousine known to belong to the Soviet KGB‘s successor agency, the FSB, as well as Ecuador’s ambassador’s car.Ecuador’s foreign minister, Ricardo Patiño, announced that Snowden had requested asylum in Ecuador.The United States has an extradition 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.

On June 25, 2013, Russian president Vladimir Putin said that Snowden’s arrival in Moscow was ”a surprise”. As Snowden remained in the transit area of Sheremetyevo, Putin said Snowden had not committed any crime on Russian soiland was free to leave and should do so. He also claimed that Russia’s intelligence agencies neither ”had worked, nor were working with” Snowden. Putin’s claims were received skeptically by some observers: one Moscow political analyst said ”Snowden will fly out of Russia when the Kremlin decides he can go.”

On June 30, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa told the Associated Press that Snowden was ”under care” of Russia and could not leave Moscow. President Evo Morales of Bolivia seemed predisposed to offer asylum to Snowden during an interview with Russia Today.

In early July 2013, there were reports in both US and Russian press that Obama’s visit to Russia slated for September was unlikely due to Snowden’s sojourn in Russia.

Morales plane incident

On July 2, the airplane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales home to Bolivia from Russia was rerouted to Austria when France, Portugal, Spain and Italy denied access to their airspace due to suspicions that Snowden was on board. Morales had been attending a conference of gas-exporting countries in Russia. Lisbon Airport refused permission for the airplane to make a scheduled landing for fuel, and France refused to let the airplane cross their airspace. The refusals for ”technical reasons”, strongly denounced by Bolivia, Ecuador and other South American nations, were attributed to rumors perpetuated allegedly by the US that Snowden was on board. Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, José García-Margallo, publicly stated that they were told Edward Snowden was on board but did not specify who had given him this information. Austrian media later claimed the rumor originated with the US ambassador to Austria. It was originally reported that Snowden was not found on board after Morales allowed a ”voluntary” search of his aircraft by Austrian authorities in Vienna. On July 7, Austrian officials announced that although an airport staff member had boarded the plane regarding a reported technical problem, there had been no ”formal inspection”, saying that federal law gave no reason, as Morales’ plane is ”his territory.” The plane had departed from Vnukovo Airport instead of Sheremetyevo Airport, 27 miles (43 km) away.

At an emergency meeting of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) on July 4, Latin American leaders denounced the ”imperialist hijacking” or the ”kidnap” of President Morales’ plane by the United States and its European allies.Various critics say the event is causing harm to European–Latin American relations, including Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who said ”the embarrassment suffered by President Morales affects not only Bolivia, but all of Latin America.The governments of Bolivia and five other South American nations demanded ”public apologies” from the involved countries. France apologized almost immediately after the event, saying they were unaware Morales was on the plane. Morales threatened to shut down the US embassy in Bolivia, and said ”apologies are not enough because the stance is that international treaties must be respected.”

US officials pre-emptively sent extradition requests to Latin American countries where Snowden might seek asylum or travel through.Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro rejected the petition and stated that the US had ”no moral authority” to arrest Snowden after revealing what he called US ”crimes against humanity.” Bolivia also rejected the request.

Asylum requests

On July 1, 2013, WikiLeaks revealed that Snowden had applied for political asylum to 20 countries. Snowden’s WikiLeaks handler, Sarah Harrison, had submitted Snowden’s request for political asylum in Russia the previous day.

A statement attributed to Snowden also contended that the U.S. administration, and specifically Vice President Biden, had unjustly pressured the governments of these countries to refuse his petition for asylum. Wikileaks reported that Snowden made a second batch of applications for asylum in 6 countries, but declined to name them citing prior interference by US officials.

Favorable

On July 1, 2013 Russian President Vladimir Putin said that if Snowden wanted to be granted asylum in Russia, Snowden would have to ”stop his work aimed at harming our American partners.” A spokesman for Putin subsequently said that Snowden had withdrawn his asylum application upon learning about the conditions.

One day after the UNASUR meeting held on July 4, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said his country would give asylum to Snowden ”if circumstances permit”, without detailing what the conditions were; Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said he had also decided to offer asylum to Snowden. Bolivian President Evo Morales also announced he would grant asylum to Snowden, ”if asked”, as a protest against the US and European nations that took part in blocking his plane, and to protect Snowden from the persecution by the USA.

On July 12, still at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow, Snowden met with representatives of human rights organizations. In an opening statement, he said:

The 4th and 5th Amendments to the Constitution of my country, Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and numerous statutes and treaties forbid such systems of massive, pervasive surveillance. While the US Constitution marks these programs as illegal, my government argues that secret court rulings, which the world is not permitted to see, somehow legitimize an illegal affair….

I believe in the principle declared at Nuremberg in 1945: ”Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience. Therefore individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring.”

At the meeting, Snowden announced that he was formally accepting all offers of asylum that he had already received or that he would receive in the future, including to Venezuela. He also said that he would be requesting temporary asylum in Russia until such time as he was able to manage to overcome the efforts of the United States and its allies to block his safe travel to Latin America.

Unfavorable

Brazilian Foreign Ministry said that the government ”received the request for asylum and doesn’t intend to respond to the request.” France said, ”Given the legal analysis and the situation of the interested party, France will not agree.”

Others

Finland, Germany, India, Poland, Norway, Austria,Italy, and the Netherlands cited technical grounds for not treating the application, saying that applications for asylum to these countries must be made from within the countries’ borders or at border stations. A Chinese spokesman said they had no information about any request from Snowden.

Ecuador, which had originally offered Snowden a temporary travel document, withdrew it. President Correa said the decision to issue it was ”a mistake.”

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.”For the 2012 election, political donation records indicate that he contributed to the primary campaign of Ron Paul.

Several sources have alleged that Snowden, writing under the pseudonym ”TheTrueHOOHA,” was the author of hundreds of posts made on technology news provider Ars Technica‘s chat rooms. A variety of political topics are discussed in the posts. In a January 2009 entry, TheTrueHOOHA exhibited strong support for the United States’ security state apparatus and said he believed leakers of classified information ”should be shot in the balls.” However, by February 2010 TheTrueHOOHA 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 by TheTrueHOOHA was made on May 21, 2012.

On June 17, 2013, Snowden’s father spoke in an interview on Fox TV, expressing concern about misinformation in the media regarding his son. He described his son as ”a sensitive, caring young man… He just is a deep thinker.” While he was 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. 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.Snowden said of himself: ”I’m neither traitor nor hero. I’m an American.”

Based on Wikipedia

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