Published on Sep 16, 2017
“I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under” | ”I’m willing to sacrifice [my former life] because I can’t in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building,” Edward Snowden (June 21, 1983 age 34) is a former National Security Agency subcontractor who made headlines in 2013 when he leaked top secret information about NSA surveillance activities | Born in North Carolina in 1983, Edward Snowden later worked for the National Security Agency through subcontractor Booz Allen in the organization’s Oahu office. During his time there, Snowden collected top-secret documents regarding NSA domestic surveillance practices that he found disturbing. After Snowden fled to Hong Kong, China and met with journalists from The Guardian and filmmaker Laura Poitras, newspapers began printing the documents that he had leaked, many of them detailing the monitoring of American citizens. The U.S. has charged Snowden with violations of the Espionage Act while many groups call him a hero. Snowden has found asylum in Russia and continues to speak about his work. Citzenfour, a documentary by Poitras about his story, won an Oscar in 2015. He is also the subject of Snowden, a 2016 biopic directed by Oliver Stone and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Edward Snowden was born in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, on June 21, 1983. His mother works for the federal court in Baltimore (the family moved to Maryland during Snowden’s youth) as chief deputy clerk for administration and information technology. Snowden’s father, a former Coast Guard officer, later relocated to Pennsylvania and remarried. Snowden eventually landed a job as a security guard at the University of Maryland’s Center for Advanced Study of Language. The institution had ties to the National Security Agency, and, by 2006, Snowden had taken an information-technology job at the Central Intelligence Agency. In 2009, after being suspected of trying to break into classified files, he left to work for private contractors, among them Dell and Booz Allen Hamilton, a tech consulting firm. While at Dell, he worked as a subcontractor in an NSA office in Japan before being transferred to an office in Hawaii. After a short time, he moved from Dell to Booz Allen, another NSA subcontractor, and remained with the company for only three months During his years of IT work, Snowden had noticed the far reach of the NSA’s everyday surveillance. While working for Booz Allen, Snowden began copying top-secret NSA documents, building a dossier on practices that he found invasive and disturbing. The documents contained vast information on the NSA’s domestic surveillance practices. After he had compiled a large store of documents, Snowden told his NSA supervisor that he needed a leave of absence for medical reasons, stating he had been diagnosed with epilepsy. On May 20, 2013, Snowden took a flight to Hong Kong, China, where he remained as he orchestrated a clandestine meeting with journalists from the U.K. publication The Guardian as well as filmmaker Laura Poitras. On June 5, The Guardian released secret documents obtained from Snowden. In these documents, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court implemented an order that required Verizon to release information to the NSA on an “ongoing, daily basis” culled from its American customers’ phone activities. The following day, The Guardian and The Washington Post released Snowden’s leaked information on PRISM, an NSA program that allows real-time information collection electronically. A flood of information followed, and both domestic and international debate ensued. “I’m willing to sacrifice [my former life] because I can’t in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building,” Snowden said in interviews given from his Hong Kong hotel room. One of the people he left behind was his girlfriend Lindsay Mills. The pair had been living together in Hawaii, and she reportedly had no idea that he was about to disclose classified information to the public.