Edward Joseph Snowden (21 June 1983) is an American computer professional
and activist who worked for the
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
and later for the National Security Agency (NSA)
as a contractor. In June 2013, he released thousands of classified
NSA documents to journalists Glenn Greenwald,
Laura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill, which has become known as
the Snowden revelations. Snowden is currently living in Russia where he
has been granted a temporary asylum.
Snowden started working for the CIA in 2006 after attending a job fair.
He was then assigned to the Global Communications Division at CIA
headquarters in Langley (Virginia, US). He was later sent to the CIA's
secret training school for technology specialists where he spend 6 months
training and studying. In March 2007, the CIA stationed him in Geneva
under official cover of diplomacy and a fake identity,
where he worked as the top technical and cybersecurity expert.
In 2009, after resigning from the CIA,
Snowden started working as a contractor
for computer giant Dell, who assigned him to an NSA facility at Yokota
Air Base near Tokyo (Japan). In 2011 he returned to the US where he worked
on Dell's CIA account. In March 2012, Dell reassigned Snowden to Hawaii
as lead technologist for the NSA's information-sharing office.
On 15 March 2013 he quit his job at Dell and started working as a contractor
for Booz Allen Hamilton, after turning down a job offer at NSA's
elite hacker team known as Tailored Access Operations.
On 20 May 2013, after working for Booz Allen Hamilton for less than three
months, Snowden flew to Hong Kong after leaving his job at the NSA facility
in Hawaii. There he revealed the classified NSA documents that he had been
collecting during the past year to journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras
and Ewen MacAskill, giving them an insight into the NSA's many
unwarranted mass-surveillance and data-collecting programs that, according
to Snowden, were unconstitutional.
Stories based on the Snowden revelations have since appeared in
The Washington Post, The Guardian, Der Spiegel,
The New York Times and others. Although many of the disclosures
in the international press are based on the information revealed by Snowden,
some of them have been falsely attributed to him, indicating that there
are other sources of information leaks as well.
On 23 June 2013, Snowden left Hong Kong and flew to Moscow with the intent
to travel on to a South American country. However, as his passport had
meanwhile been revoked by the US, he got stuck in Russia where he eventually
obtained temporary asylum for one year. This was later extended by another
three years. He is currently living at an undisclosed address in Russia.
Edward Snowden is regarded by some as a dissident, a patriot, a whistleblower
and even a hero, but is called a traitor and a spy by others.
In any case, his remarkable
disclosures have fueled the worldwide debate about mass-surveillance,
privacy, information security and (inter)national interests.
The information provided here is largely based on the
Wikipedia page about Edward Snowden and credits are due to the many
contributors listed at the bottom of that page .
On 2 September 2020, a US federal court ruled that the NSA's
mass surveillance program was illegal and possibly unconstitutional.
During his tenure, US President Donald Trump hinted on several occasions
that he might be willing to pardon Snowden, but so far no action was taken.
Related subjects on this website
- Verax (2013)
Short 5-minute low-budget film made by a local production team in Hong Kong,
depicting Snowden hiding in the Mira Hotel while being unsuccessfully
tracked by the CIA and China's Ministry of State Security.
Uploaded to YouTube on 25 June 2013.
- Classified: The Edward Snowden Story (2014)
Feature-length crowdfunded film, directed by Jason Bourque, available
as a free download. Released 19 September 2014.
- Citizenfour (2014)
Two-hour film, tracing Snowden's time in Hong Kong and Moscow, edited
by Laura Poitras. Edited in Germany as Poitras was afraid that here
material would be seized in the US.
Won the 2015 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
Released 10 October 2014.
- Killswitch (2014)
Film about big businesses trying to control the internet, the government
trying to regulate it and hacktivists trying to free up information,
featuring Edward Snowden, Aaron Schwarz, Lawrence Lessig and Tim Wu.
World premiere at the Woodstock Film Festival.
Released October 2014.
- Snowden's Great Escape (2015)
Second Edward Snowden documentary by Realscreen magazine,
in coproduction with the German NDR and the Danish DR TV. Includes new
interviews with Snowden, recorded in Moscow. Released on 12 January 2015.
- Snowden (16 September 2016)
In 2014 The Guardian reported that American director Oliver Stone
has bought the rights to Time of the Octopus, a novel based on
Snowden's life written by his Russian lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena.
Stone will be using the book along with Luke Harding's The Snowden Files
for the screenplay of a forthcoming feature-length
movie titled Snowden, which
was largely shot in Germany in 2015.
Release date: 16 September 2016.
Dutch premiere: Thursday 10 November 2016.
A movie by Oliver Stone
American film director Oliver Stone has made a feature film about Edward Snowden,
based on the books Time of the Octopus, written by Snowden's Russian lawyer
Anatoly Kucherena, and The Snowden Files by Luke Harding.
The movie shows how Snowden was first trained by the CIA and then worked for the NSA,
where he began to question the legality of the NSA's mass surveillance program
and the unwarranted tapping and recording of everybodies personal communications.
It gives us a revealing insight about what the NSA's surveillance program is
really capable of, but leaves it to the viewer to
decide whether Snowden should be called a hero or a traitor.
Making and financing the movie in the US appeared to be very difficult,
if not impossible, so Stone diverted to Munich (Germany) where much of the movie
was shot. The screenplay is by Oliver Stone and Kieran Fitzgerald, and
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Edward Snowden.
Crypto Museum was asked to supply cryptographic and espionage equipment
for the movie. Together with one other museum and a private collector, we
brought together well over 100 objects that are visible in several scenes.
Most of the objects were used to recreate the internal cipher museum at
the Hill, the CIA's training center in Virginia (US), but you may also spot
the STE crypto phones
in the CIA office in Geneva. In March 2015, Crypto
Museum's Marc Simons and Paul Reuvers travelled to Munich to assist in the
shooting of these scenes. Although photographing was not allowed
on the film set, most of the actors took the opportunity to make a 'selfie'
with the famous Enigma machine...
During the several weeks of shooting in Munich, the more than 60 objects from our
collection were treated extremely well by the production team. All personnel
was informed that the staged museum contained 'real museum pieces', which
had to be treated as such. After several months, the high-value pieces were
returned to us without a single scratch. But not without an incident: when
the production company's courrier returned the items, his
unmarked van was pulled over at the German motorway twice. On both occasions
the police searched the vehicle and summoned the driver to open the boxes,
which he refused. Coincidence or intimidation? You decide.
This movie should not be missed.
Release date: 16 September 2016 (USA).
Dutch premiere: Thursday 10 November 2016.
➤ Official website
➤ Snowden (2016) on IMDB
➤ Snowden (film) on Wikipedia
➤ Interview with Oliver Stone on Democracy NOW!
Items to watch out for in the movie
In the Netherlands, the movie Snowden was released on 10 November 2016.
As Pathé Cinema was one of its sponsors, Pathé had arranged a live interview
with Snowden at the end of the movie, via a live link with Moscow,
visible in all Pathé theatres. Click the link below for the full broadcast.
- 7 May 2004
Enlisted in the United Army Reserve as a Special Forces (SF) candidate.
- 27 September 2004
Discharged after breaking both legs. Training not completed.
Security Specialist at the Center for Advanced Study of Language
of the University of Maryland.
Joins the CIA after visiting a job fair. Assigned to the global
communications division at CIA headquarters in Langley.
- May 2006
CIA secret school for technology specialists. Six month full-time
training and study.
- March 2007
Stationed at CIA office in Geneva (Switzerland) under diplomatic cover.
Responsible for maintaining computer network security.
Hand-picked by the CIA to support the president at the 2008 NATO summit in
- February 2009
Resigns from the CIA and begins working as a contractor for Dell, which
manages computer systems for various government agencies, including the NSA.
Assigned to NSA facility at Yokota Air Base near Tokyo (Japan). Instructs
top officials and military officers on how to defend their networks from
Returns to Maryland where he works on Dell's CIA account.
- March 2012
Reassigned by Dell to the NSA information-sharing office in Hawaii.
- April 2012
Snowden begins downloading and copying documents.
- Late 2012
First contacts with journalist Glenn Greenwald.
- January 2013
First contacts with journalist Laura Poitras.
- 12 March 2013
Breaking point after 'seeing the Director of National Intelligence lie
under oath to the US Congress'.
- 15 March 2013
Leaves Dell and starts working as a contractor for Booz Allen Hamilton.
Assigned to the NSA facility in Hawaii as a infrastructure analyst.
- mid-May 2013
First interview with Laura Poitras and Jacob Appelbaum. Published weeks
later by Der Spiegel.
- 16 May 2013
First contact with journalist Barton Gellman (Washington Post).
- 20 May 2013
Takes leave of absence from the NSA in Hawaii in order to receive treatment
for his epilepsy, but leaves Hawaii for Hong Kong. Whilst being in Hong Kong, the first articles
based on the leaked documents are published.
- 5 June 2013
First article written by Greenwald appears in The Guardian.
At this point Greenwald has obtained 9,000 to 10,000 documents from Snowden.
Other publications in a variety of media outlets follow in the next months.
- 9 June 2013
Snowden's identity is revealed by The Guardian at his request.
- 14 June 2013
Charged with 3 criminal complaints for theft of government property and
violation of the Esponage Act through unauthorized communication of
national defense information, etc. Each charge carries a maximum prison
term of 10 years.
- 22 June 2013
Snowden's passport revoked by the US.
- 23 June 2013
Takes flight SU213 to Moscow, accompanied by Sarah Harrison of WikiLeaks.
All documents have been passed to journalists by now and Snowden did not
keep any copies himself. Whilst intending to travel on from Moscow
to a South American country, he gets stuck at Sheremetyevo international
airport in Moscow, as his passport has meanwhile been revoked.
- 1 July 2013
After attending a conference of gas-exporting countries in Russia,
the plane of Bolivian president Evo Morales is forced to land in Austria
where it is searched by the authorities. Apparently the
US thought that Snowden might be on this plane. Grounding Morales' plane
was a violation of international law.
- late-July 2013
Lon Snowden says his son would be better of staying in Russia as he
doesn't believe he would receive a fair trial in the US.
- 1 August 2013
Temporary asylum granted by Russia for one year.
Leaves Moscow airport after 39 days in the transit section.
- 11 October 2013
First public appearance in three months. WikiLeaks releases a video
of Snowden receiving the Sam Adams Award in Moscow, in the presence of
former US government officials.
- 31 October 2013
Visited by German lawmaker Hans-Christian Ströbele, who invites him to
testify before the German parliament in relation to the NSA surveillance
of Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone since 2002. Snowden indicated to be
willing to testify, but not from Moscow. Instead he wanted to give testimony
before US Congress or in Berlin.
- December 2013
US federal judge Richard Leon rules the collection of US phone metadata
by the NSA as 'probably unconstitutional'. Ten days later, judge William
Pauley III comes to the opposite conclusion, saying that the benefits of
surveillance outweight the privacy concerns and that the NSA's collection
of phone data is legal. On 7 May 2015 however, this ruling is voided by
the US Court of Appeal for the Second Circuit.
- January 2014
Interview with German television. Accuses the US of international industrial
- January 2014
US president Obama suggests to Snowden to return to the US
to face the charges in court. Declined by Snowden as he will not be
able to defend himself due to legal restrictions imposed on him.
- 26 January 2014
First interview with Snowden aired on German television (NDR).
- February 2014
Written testimony to the European Parliament.
- March 2014
Greenwald reveals plans of NSA
and GCHQ to infect millions of computers
with TURBINE malware, and about QUANTUMHAND, a fake Facebook server used
for intercepting communications.
- April 2014
Appears in a video on Russian TV in a live annual Q&A with Putin.
- May 2014
First interview on American televison, presented by Brian Williams (NBC).
German government unanimously decides to invite Snowden to testify as a
witness. Snowden has indicated that he is willing to testify in Berlin,
but only if he will be given a safe conduct.
- 13 July 2014
First story in The Guardian based on a seven-hour interview in a
Moscow hotel. On 13 and 17 July short video clips of the interview are
released by The Guardian.
- 18 July 2014
The Guardian publishes a 10,000 word 'edited transcript' of the
interview with Snowden.
- 7 August 2014
Receives three-year residency permit in Russia.
- 10 October 2014
Release of the movie Citzenfour, edited by Laura Poitras.
- August 2014
In an interview discloses information about a secret cyberwarfare program
known as MONSTERMIND in which US computers will automatically launch
a counter-attack after detecting a cyber-attack on the US.
Snowden is concerned about this, as the origin of a cyber-attack on the US
can easily be spoofed into coming from elsewhere.
- October 2014
Girl friend Lindsay Mills joins Snowden in exile in Moscow.
- March 2015
Greenwald reports that, according to German's Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel,
the US government had threatened to stop sharing intelligence with Germany
if that country grants Snowden asylum or arranges for his travel there.
- 7 May 2015
The United States Court of Appeal for the Second Circuit voids the ruling
of Judge William Pauley of December 2014, in which he found that the NSA's
collection of phone data was legal.
- 2 June 2015
The US Senate passes, and president Obama signs, the USA Freedom Act,
which restores several provisions of the meanwhile expired Patriot Act,
albeit in modified form, imposing some limits on the bulk collection of
telecom data on US citizens by American intelligence agencies.
- Early 2016
Edward Snowden becomes president of the Freedom of the Press Foundation.
- 16 September 2016
Release of the movie Snowden, by Oliver Stone.
Edward Snowden marries Lindsay Mills in a courthouse in Moscow.
- 17 September 2019
Release of Edward Snowden's memoirs Permanent Record.
- 2 September 2020
A US Federal Court rules that the US intelligence's mass surveillance program
was illegal and possibly unconstitutional.
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