Edward Snowden Born Edward Joseph Snowden (1983-06-21) June 21, 1983 (age32) Elizabeth City, North Carolina, U.S. Residence Russia (temporary asylum) Nationality American Occupation System administrator Employer Booz Allen Hamilton Kunia, Hawaii, US (until June 10, 2013) Knownfor Revealing details of classified United States government surveillance programs Title Rector of the University of Glasgow Term February 18, 2014 present Predecessor Charles Kennedy Criminal charge Theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information, and willful communication of classified intelligence to an unauthorized person (June 2013). Awards Sam Adams Award, Right Livelihood Award (2014) Stuttgart Peace Prize (2014)
Edward Joseph “Ed” Snowden (born June 21, 1983) is an American computer professional, former CIA employee, and former government contractor who leaked classified information from the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) in 2013. The information revealed numerous global surveillance programs, many run by the NSA and the Five Eyes with the cooperation of telecommunication companies and European governments.
Snowden was hired by Booz Allen Hamilton, an NSA contractor, in 2013 after previous employment with Dell and the CIA. On May 20, 2013, Snowden flew to Hong Kong after leaving his job at a NSA facility in Hawaii and in early June he revealed thousands of classified NSA documents to journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill. Snowden came to international attention after stories based on the material appeared in The Guardian and The Washington Post. Further disclosures were made by other newspapers including Der Spiegel and The New York Times.
On June 21, 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice unsealed charges against Snowden of two counts of violating the Espionage Act and theft of government property. On June 23, he flew to Moscow, Russia, where he reportedly remained for over a month. Later that summer, Russian authorities granted him a one-year temporary asylum which was later extended to three years. As of 2015, he was still living in an undisclosed location in Russia while seeking asylum elsewhere.
A subject of controversy, Snowden has been variously called a hero, a whistleblower, a dissident, a patriot, and a traitor. His disclosures have fueled debates over mass surveillance, government secrecy, and the balance between national security and information privacy.
Edward Joseph Snowden was born on June 21, 1983, in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. His maternal grandfather, Edward J. Barrett, was a rear admiral in the United States Coast Guard who became a senior official with the FBI and was in the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 when it was struck by an airliner hijacked by al-Qaeda terrorists. Edward’s father, Lonnie Snowden, a resident of Pennsylvania, was also an officer in the Coast Guard, and his mother, Elizabeth B. Snowden, a resident of Ellicott City, Maryland, is chief deputy at the United States District Court for the District of Maryland. His older sister, Jessica, became a lawyer at the Federal Judicial Center in Washington. “Everybody in my family has worked for the federal government in one way or another,” Snowden told James Bamford in a June 2014 interview published two months later in Wired. “I expected to pursue the same path.” His parents divorced in 2001, and his father remarried. Friends and neighbors described Snowden as shy, quiet and nice. One longtime friend said that he was always articulate, even as a child. “We always considered Ed the smartest one in the family,” said his father, who was not surprised when his son scored above 145 on two separate IQ tests. Snowden’s father described his son as “a sensitive, caring young man” and “a deep thinker.”
In the early 1990s, while still in grade school, Snowden moved with his family to Maryland.Mononucleosis caused him to miss high school for almost nine months. Rather than return, he passed the GED test and enrolled in Anne Arundel Community College. Although Snowden had no bachelor’s degree, ABC News reported that he worked online toward a master’s degree at the University of Liverpool in 2011. In 2010, while visiting India on official business at the U.S. embassy, Snowden trained for six days in core Java programming and advanced ethical hacking. Snowden was reportedly interested in Japanese popular culture, had studied the Japanese language, and worked for an anime company domiciled in the U.S. He also said he had a basic understanding of Mandarin Chinese and was deeply interested in martial arts; at age 20, he listed Buddhism as his religion on a military recruitment form, noting that the choice of agnostic was “strangely absent.” Snowden told The Washington Post that he was an ascetic, rarely left the house and had few needs.
Before leaving for Hong Kong, Snowden resided in Waipahu, Hawaii, with his longtime girlfriend, Lindsay Mills. According to local real estate agents, they moved out of their home on May 1, 2013. Mills had reportedly blogged on March 15, 2013 that the couple had “received word that we have to move out of our house by May 1. E is transferring jobs.” In October 2014, Glenn Greenwald reported at The Intercept that Mills had moved to Moscow in June 2014 to live with him and that Snowden was “now living in domestic bliss.” Snowden’s Russian lawyer Anatoly Kucherena added that the couple visits Russian cultural sights together but that Mills does not live in Russia full-time due to visa restrictions.
Snowden has said that in the 2008 presidential election, he voted for a third-party candidate. He has stated 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 President Barack Obama “continued with the policies of his predecessor.”
A week after publication of his leaks began, technology news provider Ars Technica confirmed that Snowden, under the pseudonym “TheTrueHOOHA,” had been an active participant at the site’s online forum from 2001 through May 2012, discussing a variety of topics. 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, in February 2010, TheTrueHOOHA wrote, “Did we get to where we are today via a slippery slope that was entirely within our control to stop? Or was it a relatively instantaneous sea change that sneaked in undetected because of pervasive government secrecy?”
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 considers himself “neither traitor nor hero. I’m an American.”
In 2014 Snowden stated that “women have the right to make their own choices” and supported providing “a basic income for people who have no work, or no meaningful work”.
On May 7, 2004, Snowden enlisted in the United States Army Reserve as a Special Forces candidate through its 18X enlistment option, but he 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.” Snowden said he was discharged after breaking both legs in a training accident. He was discharged on September 28, 2004.
He was then employed for less than a year in 2005 as a “security specialist” at the University of Maryland’s Center for Advanced Study of Language, a non-classified facility. In June 2014, Snowden told Wired that this was “a top-secret facility” where his job as a security guard required a high-level security clearance, for which he passed a polygraph exam and underwent a stringent background check.
In 2006, after attending a job fair focused on intelligence agencies, Snowden was offered a position at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which he joined. He was assigned to the global communications division at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.
In May 2006, Snowden wrote in Ars Technica that he had no trouble getting work because he was a “computer wizard.” After distinguishing himself as junior man on the top computer team, Snowden was sent to the CIA’s secret school for technology specialists, where he lived in a hotel for six months while studying and training full-time.
In March 2007, the CIA stationed Snowden with diplomatic cover in Geneva, Switzerland, where he was responsible for maintaining computer network security. Assigned to the U.S. mission to the United Nations, Snowden was given a diplomatic passport and a four-bedroom apartment near Lake Geneva. According to Greenwald, while there Snowden was “considered the top technical and cybersecurity expert” in that country and “was hand-picked by the CIA to support the president at the 2008 NATO summit in Romania.” 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. Snowden said that when the latter was arrested, a CIA operative offered to help in exchange for the banker becoming an informant.Ueli Maurer, President of the Swiss Confederation for the year 2013, in June of that year publicly disputed Snowden’s claims. “This would mean that the CIA successfully bribed the Geneva police and judiciary. With all due respect, I just can’t imagine it,” said Maurer. The revelations were said to have come at a sensitive time as the U.S. was pressing the Swiss government to increase banking transparency. In February 2009, Snowden resigned from the CIA.
In 2009, Snowden began work as a contractor for Dell, which manages computer systems for multiple government agencies. Assigned to an NSA facility at Yokota Air Base near Tokyo, Snowden instructed top officials and military officers on how to defend their networks from Chinese hackers. During his four years with Dell, he rose from supervising NSA computer system upgrades to working as what his rsum termed a “cyberstrategist” and an “expert in cyber counterintelligence” at several U.S. locations. In 2011, he returned to Maryland, where he spent a year as lead technologist on Dell’s CIA account. In that capacity, he was consulted by the chiefs of the CIA’s technical branches, including the agency’s chief information officer and its chief technology officer. U.S. officials and other sources familiar with the investigation said Snowden began downloading documents describing the government’s electronic spying programs while working for Dell in April 2012. Investigators estimated that of the 50,000 to 200,000 documents Snowden gave to Greenwald and Poitras, most were copied by Snowden while working at Dell.
In March 2012, Dell reassigned Snowden to Hawaii as lead technologist for the NSA’s information-sharing office. At the time of his departure from the United States in May 2013, he had been employed for 15 months inside the NSA’s Hawaii regional operations center, which focuses on the electronic monitoring of China and North Korea, the last three of which were with consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. While intelligence officials have described his position there as a “system administrator,” Snowden has said 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. On March 15, 2013three days after what he later called his “breaking point” of “seeing the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, directly lie under oath to Congress”Snowden quit his job at Dell. Although he has stated that his “career high” annual salary was $200,000, Snowden said he took a pay cut to work at Booz Allen, where he sought employment in order to gather data and then release details of the NSA’s worldwide surveillance activity. According to a Reuters story by Mark Hosenball, while in Hawaii, Snowden “may have persuaded between 20 and 25 fellow workers” to give him their logins and passwords “by telling them they were needed for him to do his job as a computer systems administrator.” NBC News reported that the NSA sent a memo to Congress and “[w]hile the memo’s account is sketchy, it suggests that, contrary to Snowden’s statements, he used an element of trickery to retrieve his trove of tens of thousands of classified documents.” This report was disputed, with Snowden himself saying in January 2014, “With all due respect to Mark Hosenball, the Reuters report that put this out there was simply wrong. I never stole any passwords, nor did I trick an army of co-workers.” The day after Snowden publicly took responsibility for the NSA surveillance revelations, Booz Allen terminated his employment “for violations of the firm’s code of ethics and firm policy.”
A former NSA co-worker told Forbes that although the NSA was full of smart people, Snowden was “a genius among geniuses,” who created a backup system for the NSA that was widely implemented and often pointed out security bugs to the agency. The former colleague said Snowden was given full administrator privileges, with virtually unlimited access to NSA data. Snowden was offered a position on the NSA’s elite team of hackers, Tailored Access Operations, but turned it down to join Booz Allen.
A source “with detailed knowledge on the matter” told Reuters that hiring screeners for Booz Allen had found some details of Snowden’s education that “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 rsum stated that Snowden attended computer-related classes at Johns Hopkins University. A spokeswoman 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.” The University College of the University of Maryland acknowledged that Snowden had attended a summer session at a UM campus in Asia. Snowden’s rsum stated that he estimated that he would receive a University of Liverpool computer security master’s degree in 2013. The university said that Snowden registered for an online master’s degree program in computer security in 2011 but that “he is not active in his studies and has not completed the program.”
Snowden said that, using “internal channels of dissent”, he had told multiple employees and two supervisors about his concerns that the NSA programs were unconstitutional. An NSA spokeswoman responded, saying they had “not found any evidence to support Mr. Snowden’s contention that he brought these matters to anyone’s attention”. Snowden elaborated in January 2014, saying “[I] made tremendous efforts to report these programs to co-workers, supervisors, and anyone with the proper clearance who would listen. The reactions of those I told about the scale of the constitutional violations ranged from deeply concerned to appalled, but no one was willing to risk their jobs, families, and possibly even freedom to go to through what [Thomas Andrews] Drake did.” In March 2014, during testimony to the European Parliament, Snowden wrote that before revealing classified information he had reported “clearly problematic programs” to ten officials, who he said did nothing in response. In a May 2014 interview, Snowden told NBC News that after bringing his concerns about the legality of the NSA spying programs to officials, he was told to stay silent on the matter. Snowden said:
The NSA has recordsthey have copies of emails right now to their Office of General Counsel, to their oversight and compliance folks from me raising concerns about the NSA’s interpretations of its legal authorities. I had raised these complaints not just officially in writing through email, but to my supervisors, to my colleagues, in more than one office. I did it in Fort Meade. I did it in Hawaii. And many, many of these individuals were shocked by these programs. They had never seen them themselves. And the ones who had, went, “You know, you’re right. But if you say something about this, they’re going to destroy you”.
In May 2014, U.S. officials released a single email that Snowden had written in April 2013 inquiring about legal authorities but said that they had found no other evidence that Snowden had expressed his concerns to someone in an oversight position. In June 2014, the NSA said it had not been able to find any records of Snowden raising internal complaints about the agency’s operations. That same month, Snowden explained that he himself has not produced the communiqus in question because of the ongoing nature of the dispute, disclosing for the first time that “I am working with the NSA in regard to these records and we’re going back and forth, so I don’t want to reveal everything that will come out.”
In his May 2014 interview with NBC News, Snowden accused the U.S. government of trying to use one position here or there in his career to distract from the totality of his experience, downplaying him as a “low level analyst.” In his words, he was “trained as a spy in the traditional sense of the word in that I lived and worked undercover overseaspretending to work in a job that I’m notand even being assigned a name that was not mine.” He said he’d worked for the NSA undercover overseas, and for the DIA had developed sources and methods to keep information and people secure “in the most hostile and dangerous environments around the world. So when they say I’m a low-level systems administrator, that I don’t know what I’m talking about, I’d say it’s somewhat misleading.” In a June interview with Globo TV, Snowden reiterated that he “was actually functioning at a very senior level.” In a July interview with The Guardian, Snowden explained that, during his NSA career, “I began to move from merely overseeing these systems to actively directing their use. Many people dont understand that I was actually an analyst and I designated individuals and groups for targeting.” Snowden subsequently told Wired that while at Dell in 2011, “I would sit down with the CIO of the CIA, the CTO of the CIA, the chiefs of all the technical branches. They would tell me their hardest technology problems, and it was my job to come up with a way to fix them.
Of his time as an NSA analyst, directing the work of others, Snowden recalled a moment when he and his colleagues began to have severe ethical doubts. Snowden said 18- to 22-year-old analysts were suddenly “thrust into a position of extraordinary responsibility, where they now have access to all your private records. In the course of their daily work, they stumble across something that is completely unrelated in any sort of necessary sensefor example, an intimate nude photo of someone in a sexually compromising situation. But they’re extremely attractive. So what do they do? They turn around in their chair and they show a co-worker and sooner or later this person’s whole life has been seen by all of these other people.” As Snowden observed it, this behavior was routine, happening “probably every two months,” but was never reported, being considered among “the fringe benefits of surveillance positions.”
The exact size of Snowden’s disclosure is unknown, but Australian officials have estimated 15,000 or more Australian intelligence files and British officials estimate at least 58,000 British intelligence files. NSA Director Keith Alexander initially estimated that Snowden had copied anywhere from 50,000 to 200,000 NSA documents. Later estimates provided by U.S. officials were on the order of 1.7 million, a number that originally came from Department of Defense talking points. In July 2014, The Washington Post reported on a cache previously provided by Snowden from domestic NSA operations consisting of “roughly 160,000 intercepted e-mail and instant-message conversations, some of them hundreds of pages long, and 7,900 documents taken from more than 11,000 online accounts.” In June 2015, Vice News reported that, according to a declassified U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency report obtained in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, Snowden took 900,000 Department of Defense files, more than he downloaded from the NSA.
In March 2014, Army General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the House Armed Services Committee, “The vast majority of the documents that Snowden exfiltrated from our highest levels of security had nothing to do with exposing government oversight of domestic activities. The vast majority of those were related to our military capabilities, operations, tactics, techniques and procedures.” When retired NSA director Keith Alexander was asked in a May 2014 interview to quantify the number of documents Snowden stole, Alexander answered, “I don’t think anybody really knows what he actually took with him, because the way he did it, we don’t have an accurate way of counting. What we do have an accurate way of counting is what he touched, what he may have downloaded, and that was more than a million documents.”
According to Snowden, he did not indiscriminately turn over documents to journalists, stating that “I carefully evaluated every single document I disclosed to ensure that each was legitimately in the public interest. There are all sorts of documents that would have made a big impact that I didn’t turn over” and that “I have to screen everything before releasing it to journalists If I have time to go through this information, I would like to make it available to journalists in each country.”
In June 2014, the NSA’s recently installed director, U.S. Navy Admiral Michael S. Rogers, stated that while some terrorist groups had altered their communications to avoid surveillance techniques revealed by Snowden, the damage done was not significant enough to conclude that “the sky is falling.” Nevertheless, in February 2015, Rogers said that Snowden’s disclosures has a “material impact” on the NSA’s ability to “generate insights as to what counterterrorism, what terrorist groups around the world are doing.”
In April 2015 the Henry Jackson Society, a British neoconservative think tank, published a report claiming that Snowden’s intelligence leaks negatively impacted Britain’s ability to fight terrorism and organized crime.Gus Hosein, executive director of Privacy International, criticized the report and said it “presumes that the public are idiots and that we only became concerned about privacy after Snowden.”
The New York Times’ James Risen reported that Snowden’s decision to leak NSA documents “developed gradually, dating back at least to his time working as a technician in the Geneva station of the CIA.” Snowden first made contact with Glenn Greenwald, a journalist working at The Guardian, in late 2012. He contacted Greenwald anonymously as “Cincinnatus” and said he had “sensitive documents” that he would like to share. Greenwald found the measures that the source asked him to take to secure their communications, such as encrypting email, too annoying to employ. Snowden then contacted documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras in January 2013. According to Poitras, Snowden chose to contact her after seeing her New York Times documentary about NSA whistleblower William Binney. The Guardian reported that what originally attracted Snowden to both Greenwald and Poitras was a Salon article written by Greenwald detailing how Poitras’ controversial films had made her a “target of the government.”
Greenwald began working with Snowden in either February or April 2013, after Poitras asked Greenwald to meet her in New York City, at which point Snowden began providing documents to them.Barton Gellman, writing for The Washington Post, says his first “direct contact” was on May 16, 2013. According to Gellman, Snowden approached Greenwald after the Post declined to guarantee publication within 72 hours of all 41 PowerPoint slides that Snowden had leaked exposing the PRISM electronic data mining program, and to publish online an encrypted code allowing Snowden to later prove that he was the source.
Snowden communicated using encrypted email, and going by the codename “Verax”. He asked not to be quoted at length for fear of identification by stylometry.
According to Gellman, prior to their first meeting in person, Snowden wrote, “I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions, and that the return of this information to the public marks my end.” Snowden also told Gellman that until the articles were published, the journalists working with him would also be at mortal risk from the United States Intelligence Community “if they think you are the single point of failure that could stop this disclosure and make them the sole owner of this information.”
In May 2013, Snowden was permitted temporary leave from his position at the NSA in Hawaii, on the pretext of receiving treatment for his epilepsy. In mid-May, Snowden gave an electronic interview to Poitras and Jacob Appelbaum which was published weeks later by Der Spiegel.
After disclosing the copied documents, Snowden promised that nothing would stop subsequent disclosures. In June 2013, he said, “All I can say right now is the US government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me. Truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped.”
On May 20, 2013, Snowden flew to Hong Kong, where he was staying when the initial articles based on the leaked documents were published, beginning with The Guardian on June 5. Greenwald later said Snowden disclosed 9,000 to 10,000 documents. 
Within months, documents had been obtained and published by media outlets worldwide, most notably The Guardian (Britain), Der Spiegel (Germany), The Washington Post and The New York Times (U.S.), O Globo (Brazil), Le Monde (France), and similar outlets in Sweden, Canada, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, and Australia. In 2014, NBC broke its first story based on the leaked documents. In February 2014, for reporting based on Snowden’s leaks, journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Barton Gellman and The Guardians Ewen MacAskill were honored as co-recipients of the 2013 George Polk Award, which they dedicated to Snowden. The NSA reporting by these journalists also earned The Guardian and The Washington Post the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for exposing the “widespread surveillance” and for helping to spark a “huge public debate about the extent of the government’s spying”. The Guardian’s chief editor, Alan Rusbridger, credited Snowden, saying “The public service in this award is significant because Snowden performed a public service.”
The ongoing publication of leaked documents has revealed previously unknown details of a global surveillance apparatus run by the United States’ NSA in close cooperation with three of its Five Eyes partners: Australia (ASD), the United Kingdom (GCHQ), and Canada (CSEC).
The Guardian’s editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger said in November 2013 that only one percent of the documents had been published. Officials warned that “the worst is yet to come”.
Media reports documenting the existence and functions of classified surveillance programs and their scope began on June 5, 2013, and continued throughout the entire year. The first program to be revealed was PRISM, with reports from both The Washington Post and The Guardian published an hour apart. PRISM allows for court-approved direct access to Americans’ Google and Yahoo accounts. The Post’s Barton Gellman was the first journalist to report on Snowden’s documents. He said the U.S. government urged him not to specify by name which companies were involved, but Gellman decided that to name them “would make it real to Americans.” Reports also revealed details of Tempora, a British black-ops surveillance program run by the NSA’s British partner, GCHQ. The initial reports included details about NSA call database, Boundless Informant, and of a secret court order requiring Verizon to hand the NSA millions of Americans’ phone records daily, the surveillance of French citizens’ phone and internet records, and those of “high-profile individuals from the world of business or politics.”XKeyscore, an analytical tool that allows for collection of “almost anything done on the internet,” was described by The Guardian as a program that “shed light” on one of Snowden’s most controversial statements: “I, sitting at my desk [could] wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email.”
It was revealed that the NSA was harvesting millions of email and instant messaging contact lists, searching email content, tracking and mapping the location of cell phones, undermining attempts at encryption via Bullrun and that the agency was using cookies to “piggyback” on the same tools used by internet advertisers “to pinpoint targets for government hacking and to bolster surveillance.” The NSA was shown to be “secretly” tapping into Yahoo and Google data centers to collect information from “hundreds of millions” of account holders worldwide by tapping undersea cables using the MUSCULAR surveillance program.
The NSA, the U.S. CIA and GCHQ spied on users of Second Life and World of Warcraft by creating make-believe characters as a way to “hide in plain sight.” Leaked documents showed NSA agents spied on their “love interests,” a practice NSA employees termed LOVEINT. The NSA was also shown to be tracking the online sexual activity of people they termed “radicalizers,” in order to discredit them. The NSA was accused of going “beyond its core mission of national security” when articles were published showing the NSA’s intelligence-gathering operations had targeted Brazil’s largest oil company, Petrobras. The NSA and the GCHQ were also shown to be surveilling charities including UNICEF and Mdecins du Monde, as well as allies such as the EU chief and the Israeli Prime Minister.
By October 2013, Snowden’s disclosures had created tensions between the U.S. and some of its close allies after they revealed that the U.S. had spied on Brazil, France, Mexico, Britain, China, Germany, and Spain, as well as 35 world leaders, most notably German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said “spying among friends” was “unacceptable” and compared the NSA with the Stasi. Leaked documents published by Der Spiegel in 2014 appeared to show that the NSA had targeted 122 “high ranking” leaders.
The NSA’s top-secret “black budget,” obtained from Snowden by The Washington Post, exposed the “successes and failures” of the 16 spy agencies comprising the U.S. intelligence community, and revealed that the NSA was paying U.S. private tech companies for “clandestine access” to their communications networks. The agencies were allotted $52 billion for the 2013 fiscal year.
An NSA mission statement titled “SIGINT Strategy 2012-2016″ affirmed that the NSA plans for continued expansion of surveillance activities. Their stated goal was to “dramatically increase mastery of the global network” and “acquire the capabilities to gather intelligence on anyone, anytime, anywhere.” Leaked slides revealed in Greenwald’s book No Place to Hide, released in May 2014, showed that the NSA’s stated objective was to “Collect it All,” “Process it All,” “Exploit it All,” “Partner it All,” “Sniff it All” and “Know it All.”
Snowden stated in a January 2014 interview with German television that the NSA does not limit its data collection to national security issues, accusing the agency of conducting industrial espionage. Using the example of German company Siemens, he stated, “If there’s information at Siemens that’s beneficial to US national interestseven if it doesn’t have anything to do with national securitythen they’ll take that information nevertheless.” In August 2014, German national newspaper Die Welt reported that, in the wake of Snowden’s revelations and in response to an inquiry from the Left Party, Germany’s domestic security agency Bundesamt fr Verfassungsschutz (BfV) investigated and found no “concrete evidence” (Konkrete Belege) that the U.S. conducted economic or industrial espionage in Germany.
In February 2014, during testimony to the European Union, Snowden said of the remaining “undisclosed programs”: “I will leave the public interest determinations as to which of these may be safely disclosed to responsible journalists in coordination with government stakeholders.”
In March 2014, documents disclosed by Glenn Greenwald writing for The Intercept showed the NSA, in cooperation with the GCHQ, has plans to infect millions of computers with malware using a program called “Turbine.” Revelations included information about “QUANTUMHAND,” a program through which the NSA set up a fake Facebook server to intercept connections.
According to a report in The Washington Post in July 2014, relying on information furnished by Snowden, 90% of those placed under surveillance in the U.S. are ordinary Americans, and are not the intended targets. The newspaper said it had examined documents including emails, message texts, and online accounts, that support the claim.
In an August 2014 interview, Snowden for the first time disclosed a cyberwarfare program in the works, codenamed MonsterMind. The program would “automate the process of hunting for the beginnings of a foreign cyberattack”. The software would constantly look for traffic patterns indicating known or suspected attacks. What sets MonsterMind apart was that it would add a “unique new capability: instead of simply detecting and killing the malware at the point of entry, MonsterMind would automatically fire back, with no human involvement”. Snowden expressed concern that often initial attacks are routed through computers in innocent third countries. “These attacks can be spoofed. You could have someone sitting in China, for example, making it appear that one of these attacks is originating in Russia. And then we end up shooting back at a Russian hospital. What happens next?”
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. According to Poitras, who filmed the interview with Snowden in Hong Kong, he had initially not wanted to be seen on camera, because “he didn’t want the story to be about him.” Poitras says she convinced him it was necessary to have him give an account of the leaked documents’ significance on film: “I knew that the mainstream media interpretation would be predictable and narrow, but because to have somebody who understands how this technology works, who is willing to risk their life to expose it to the public, and that we could hear that articulated, would reach people in ways that the documents themselves wouldn’t.” 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.” In a later interview Snowden declared:
For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished. I already won. As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated. Because, remember, I didn’t want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself. All I wanted was for the public to be able to have a say in how they are governed.
Snowden said that in the past, whistleblowers had been “destroyed by the experience,” and that he wanted to “embolden others to step forward” by demonstrating that “they can win.” In October, Snowden spoke out again on his motivations for the leaks in an interview with The New York Times, saying that the system for reporting problems does not work. “You have to report wrongdoing to those most responsible for it,” Snowden explained, and pointed out the lack of whistleblower protection for government contractors, the use of the 1917 Espionage Act to prosecute leakers, and his belief that had he used internal mechanisms to “sound the alarm,” his revelations “would have been buried forever.”
In December 2013, upon learning that a U.S. federal judge had ruled the collection of U.S. phone metadata conducted by the NSA as likely unconstitutional, Snowden stated: “I acted on my belief that the NSA’s mass surveillance programs would not withstand a constitutional challenge, and that the American public deserved a chance to see these issues determined by open courts today, a secret program authorized by a secret court was, when exposed to the light of day, found to violate Americans’ rights. It is the first of many.”
In January 2014, Snowden said his “breaking point” was “seeing the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, directly lie under oath to Congress.” This referred to testimony on March 12, 2013three months after Snowden first sought to share thousands of NSA documents with Greenwald, and nine months after the NSA says Snowden made his first illegal downloads during the summer of 2012in which Clapper denied to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that the NSA wittingly collects data on millions of Americans. Snowden said, “Theres no saving an intelligence community that believes it can lie to the public and the legislators who need to be able to trust it and regulate its actions. Seeing that really meant for me there was no going back. Beyond that, it was the creeping realization that no one else was going to do this. The public had a right to know about these programs.” In May 2014, Vanity Fair reported that Snowden said he first contemplated leaking confidential documents around 2008, but that “Snowden held back, in part because he believed Barack Obama, elected that November, might introduce reforms.” Snowden stated that he had reported policy or legal issues related to spying programs to more than 10 officials, but as a contractor had no legal avenue to pursue further whistleblowing.
In May 2013 Snowden took a leave of absence, telling his supervisors he was returning to the mainland for epilepsy treatment, but instead left Hawaii for Hong Kong where he arrived on May 20. Snowden told Guardian reporters in June that he had been in his room at the Mira Hotel since his arrival in the city, rarely going out. On June 10, correspondent Ewen MacAskill said “He’s stuck in his hotel every day; he never goes out. I think he’s only been out about three times since May 20th and that was only briefly.” Mira staff told Wall Street Journal reporters, however, that Snowden did not check in to the hotel until June 1.
Snowden vowed to challenge any extradition attempt by the U.S. government, and engaged a Canadian, Hong Kong-based human rights lawyer Robert Tibbo, as his legal adviser. Snowden told the South China Morning Post that he planned to remain in Hong Kong until “asked to leave,” adding that his intention was to let the “courts and people of Hong Kong” decide his fate. While in Hong Kong Snowden told the Post that “the United States government has committed a tremendous number of crimes against Hong Kong. The PRC as well,” going on to identify Chinese Internet Protocol addresses that the NSA monitored and stating that the NSA collected text-message data for Hong Kong residents. Glenn Greenwald explained the leak as reflecting “a need to ingratiate himself to the people of Hong Kong and China.”
In late August, the Russian newspaper Kommersant reported that Snowden was living at the Russian consulate shortly before his departure from Hong Kong to Moscow. Ben Wizner, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and legal adviser to Snowden, said in January 2014, “Every news organization in the world has been trying to confirm that story. They haven’t been able to, because it’s false.” Likewise rejecting the Kommersant story was Anatoly Kucherena, who became Snowden’s lawyer in July 2013, when Snowden asked him for help with seeking temporary asylum in Russia. Kucherena stated that Snowden “did not enter into any communication with our diplomats when he was in Hong Kong.” In early September 2013, however, Russian president Vladimir Putin said that, a few days before boarding a plane to Moscow, “Mr. Snowden first appeared in Hong Kong and met with our diplomatic representatives.” In June 2014, investigative journalist Edward Jay Epstein wrote that a U.S. official had told him that on three occasions in June 2013, Snowden had been observed on CCTV cameras entering the Hong Kong tower where the Russian consulate is located.
On June 22 (18 days after publication of Snowden’s NSA documents began), U.S. officials revoked his passport. On June 23, Snowden boarded the commercial Aeroflot flight SU213 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 law, and there was no legal basis to prevent Snowden from leaving.[Notes 1] On June 24, U.S. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said “we’re just not buying that this was a technical decision by a Hong Kong immigration official. This was a deliberate choice by the government to release a fugitive despite a valid arrest warrant though the Privacy Act prohibits me from talking about Mr. Snowden’s passport specifically, I can say that the Hong Kong authorities were well aware of our interest in Mr. Snowden and had plenty of time to prohibit his travel.” That same day, Julian Assange said that WikiLeaks had paid for Snowden’s lodging in Hong Kong and his flight out.
In October 2013, Snowden said that before flying to Moscow, he gave all the classified documents he had obtained to journalists he met in Hong Kong, and did not keep any copies for himself. In January 2014, he told a German TV interviewer that he gave all of his information “to American journalists who are reporting on American issues.” During his first American TV interview, in May 2014, Snowden said he had protected himself from Russian leverage “by destroying the material that I was holding before I transited through Russia.”
On June 23, 2013, Snowden landed at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo international airport. WikiLeaks stated that he was “bound for the Republic of Ecuador via a safe route for the purposes of asylum.” Snowden had a seat reserved to continue to Cuba but did not board that onward flight, saying in a January 2014 interview that he was “stopped en route” despite an intention to be “only transiting through Russia.” He stated, “I was ticketed for onward travel via Havanaa planeload of reporters documented the seat I was supposed to be inbut the State Department decided they wanted me in Moscow, and cancelled my passport.” He said the U.S. wanted him there so “they could say, ‘He’s a Russian spy.'” Greenwald’s account differs on the point of Snowden being already ticketed. According to Greenwald, Snowden’s passport was valid when he departed Hong Kong but was revoked during the hours he was in transit to Moscow, meaning “he could no longer get a ticket and leave Russia.” Snowden was thus, Greenwald says, forced to stay in Moscow and seek asylum.
According to one Russian report, Snowden planned to fly from Moscow through Havana to Latin America; however, Cuba informed Moscow it would not allow the Aeroflot plane carrying Snowden to land. Anonymous Russian sources claimed that Cuba had a change of heart after receiving pressure from U.S. officials, leaving him stuck in the transit zone because at the last minute Havana told officials in Moscow not to allow him on the flight.Fidel Castro called claims that Cuba would have blocked Snowden’s entry to his country a “lie” and a “libel.”The Washington Post said “[t]hat version stands in contrast to widespread speculation that the Russians never intended to let the former CIA employee travel onward.” Russian president Putin said that Snowden’s arrival in Moscow was “a surprise” and “like an unwanted Christmas gift.” Putin said that Snowden remained in the transit area of Sheremetyevo, noted that he had not committed any crime in Russia, and declared that Snowden was free to leave and should do so. He denied that Russia’s intelligence agencies had worked or were working with Snowden.
Following Snowden’s arrival in Moscow, the White House expressed disappointment in Hong Kong’s decision to allow him to leave, with press secretary Jay Carney stating, “We very clearly believe that Mr. Snowden ought to be returned to the United States to face the charges that have been set against him,” and the director of the State Department’s press office concurred: “We are deeply disappointed by the decision of the authorities in Hong Kong to permit Mr. Snowden to flee despite a legally valid U.S. request to arrest him for purposes of his extradition under the U.S.-Hong Kong Surrender Agreement. We hope that the Russian Government will look at all available options to return Mr. Snowden back to the U.S. to face justice for the crimes with which he’s charged.” An anonymous U.S. official not authorized to discuss the passport matter told AP Snowden’s passport had been revoked before he left Hong Kong, and that although it could make onward travel more difficult, “if a senior official in a country or airline ordered it, a country could overlook the withdrawn passport.” In a July 1 statement, Snowden said, “Although I am convicted of nothing, [the US government] has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person. Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right. A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum.”
After Snowden received asylum in Russia, international criminal defense lawyer Douglas McNabb commented that “absent of Mr. Snowden attempting to travel to Latin America, as long as he stays in Russia, hes apparently safe.”Julian Assange agreed with this assessment, saying in a December 2013 Rolling Stone interview, “While Venezuela and Ecuador could protect him in the short term, over the long term there could be a change in government. In Russia, he’s safe, he’s well-regarded, and that is not likely to change. That was my advice to Snowden, that he would be physically safest in Russia.” According to Snowden, “the CIA has a very powerful presence [in Latin America] and the governments and the security services there are relatively much less capable than, say, Russia…. they could have basically snatched me….”
Four countries offered Snowden permanent asylum: Ecuador, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Venezuela.ABC News reported that no direct flights between Moscow and Venezuela, Bolivia or Nicaragua exist, and that “the United States has pressured countries along his route to hand him over.” Snowden explained in July 2013 that he decided to bid for asylum in Russia because he did not feel there was any safe travel route to Latin America. Snowden said he remained in Russia because “when we were talking about possibilities for asylum in Latin America, the United States forced down the Bolivian Presidents plane”, citing the Morales plane incident. On the issue, he said “some governments in Western European and North American states have demonstrated a willingness to act outside the law, and this behavior persists today. This unlawful threat makes it impossible for me to travel to Latin America and enjoy the asylum granted there in accordance with our shared rights.” He said that he would travel from Russia if there was no interference from the U.S. government.
In an October 2014 interview with The Nation magazine, Snowden reiterated that he had originally intended to travel to Latin America: “A lot of people are still unaware that I never intended to end up in Russia.” According to Snowden, the U.S. government “waited until I departed Hong Kong to cancel my passport in order to trap me in Russia.” Snowden added, “If they really wanted to capture me, they would’ve allowed me to travel to Latin America, because the CIA can operate with impunity down there. They did not want that; they chose to keep me in Russia.”
On July 1, 2013, president Evo Morales of Bolivia, who had been attending a conference of gas-exporting countries in Russia, suggested during an interview with Russia Today that he would be “willing to consider a request” by Snowden for asylum. The following day, Morales’ plane en route to Bolivia was rerouted to Austria and reportedly searched there after France, Spain and Italy denied access to their airspace. U.S. officials had raised suspicions that Snowden may have been on board. Morales blamed the U.S. for putting pressure on European countries, and said that the grounding of his plane was a violation of international law.
In April 2015, Bolivia’s ambassador to Russia, Mara Luisa Ramos Urzagaste, accused WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange of putting Morales’s life at risk by intentionally providing to the United States false rumors that Snowden was on the Morales’s plane. Assange responded that the plan “was not completely honest, but we did consider that the final result would have justified our actions. We can only regret what happened.”
Snowden applied for political asylum to 21 countries. A statement attributed to him contended that the U.S. administration, and specifically Vice President Joe Biden, had pressured the governments to refuse his asylum petitions. Biden had telephoned President Rafael Correa days prior to Snowden’s remarks, asking the Ecuadorian leader not to grant Snowden asylum. Ecuador had initially offered Snowden a temporary travel document but later withdrew it; on July 1, President Rafael Correa said the decision to issue the offer had been “a mistake.”
In a July 1 statement published by WikiLeaks, Snowden accused the U.S. government of “using citizenship as a weapon” and using what he described as “old, bad tools of political aggression.” Citing Obama’s promise to not allow “wheeling and dealing” over the case, Snowden commented, “This kind of deception from a world leader is not justice, and neither is the extralegal penalty of exile.” Several days later, WikiLeaks announced that Snowden had applied for asylum in six additional countries, which WikiLeaks declined to name “due to attempted U.S. interference.”
The French interior ministry rejected Snowden’s request for asylum, saying, “Given the legal analysis and the situation of the interested party, France will not agree.” Poland refused to process his application because it did not conform to legal procedure.Brazil’s Foreign Ministry said the government “does not plan to respond” to Snowden’s asylum request. Germany, Finland and India rejected Snowden’s application outright, while Austria, Ecuador, Norway and Spain said he must be on their territory to apply. Italy cited the same reason in rejecting his request, as did the Netherlands. In November 2014, Germany announced that Snowden had not renewed his previously denied request and was not being considered for asylum.
Putin said on July 1, 2013, that if Snowden wanted to be granted asylum in Russia, he would be required 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 of the conditions.
In a July 12 meeting at Sheremetyevo Airport with representatives of human rights organizations and lawyers, organized in part by the Russian government, Snowden said he was accepting all offers of asylum that he had already received or would receive in the future, noting that his Venezuela’s “asylee status was now formal.” He also said he would request asylum in Russia until he resolved his travel problems. Russian Federal Migration Service officials confirmed on July 16 that Snowden had submitted an application for temporary asylum. On July 24, Kucherena said his client “wants to find work in Russia, travel and somehow create a life for himself.” He said Snowden had already begun learning Russian.
Amid media reports in early July 2013 attributed to U.S. administration sources that Obama’s one-on-one meeting with Putin, ahead of a G20 meeting in St Petersburg scheduled for September, was in doubt due to Snowden’s protracted sojourn in Russia, top U.S. officials repeatedly made it clear to Moscow that Snowden should immediately be returned to the United States to, in the words of White House press secretary Jay Carney, “face the charges that have been brought against him for the unauthorized leaking of classified information.” Snowden needed asylum, according to his Russian lawyer, because “he faces persecution by the U.S. government and he fears for his life and safety, fears that he could be subjected to torture and capital punishment.”
In a letter to Russian Minister of Justice Alexander Konovalov dated July 23,U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder sought to eliminate the “asserted grounds for Mr. Snowden’s claim that he should be treated as a refugee or granted asylum, temporary or otherwise.” Holder asserted that the theft and espionage charges against Snowden do not carry the possibility of a death penalty and that the United States would not seek the death penalty “even if Mr. Snowden were charged with additional death penalty-eligible crimes.” Holder said Snowden is free to travel from Moscow despite the June 22 revocation of his U.S. passport. He is, Holder explained, immediately eligible for a “limited validity passport” good for direct return to the United States. Holder also assured Konovalov that Snowden would not be tortured. “Torture is unlawful in the United States,” Holder wrote. “If he returns to the United States, Mr. Snowden would promptly be brought before a civilian court convened under Article III of the United States Constitution and supervised by a United States District Judge. Mr. Snowden would be appointed (or if so chose, could retain) counsel.” The same day, the Russian president’s spokesman reiterated the Kremlin’s position that it would “not hand anyone over”; he also noted that Putin was not personally involved in the matter as Snowden “has not made any request that would require examination by the head of state” and that the issue was being handled through talks between the FSB and the FBI.
In March 2015, journalist Glenn Greenwald reported at The Intercept that Sigmar Gabriel, Vice-Chancellor of Germany, told him the U.S. government had threatened to stop sharing intelligence if Germany offered Snowden asylum or arranged for his travel there.
On June 14, 2013, United States federal prosecutors filed a criminal complaint against Snowden, charging him with theft of government property, and two counts of violating the Espionage Act through unauthorized communication of national defense information and “willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person.” Each of the three charges carries a maximum possible prison term of ten years. The charge was initially secret and was unsealed a week later.
Snowden was asked in a January 2014 interview about returning to the U.S. to face the charges in court, as Obama had suggested a few days prior. Snowden explained why he rejected the request: “What he doesn’t say are that the crimes that he’s charged me with are crimes that don’t allow me to make my case. They don’t allow me to defend myself in an open court to the public and convince a jury that what I did was to their benefit. So it’s, I would say, illustrative that the President would choose to say someone should face the music when he knows the music is a show trial.” Snowden’s legal representative, Jesselyn Radack, wrote that “the Espionage Act effectively hinders a person from defending himself before a jury in an open court, as past examples show,” referring to Thomas Drake, John Kiriakou and Chelsea Manning. Radack said that the “arcane World War I law” was never meant to prosecute whistleblowers, but rather spies who sold secrets to enemies for profit. Under this law, she states, “no prosecution of a non-spy can be fair or just.”
Snowden left the Moscow airport on August 1 after 39 days in the transit section. He had been granted temporary asylum in Russia for one year; the asylum grant can be extended indefinitely on an annual basis. According to his Russian lawyer, Snowden went to an undisclosed location kept secret for security reasons. In response to the asylum grant, the White House stated that it was “extremely disappointed,” and cancelled a previously scheduled meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Additionally, Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham urged President Obama to boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, but House Speaker John Boehner, also a Republican, rejected that idea as “dead wrong.”
In late July 2013, Lon Snowden said he believed his son would be better off staying in Russia, and didn’t believe he would receive a fair trial in the U.S. In mid-October, he visited his son in Moscow, later telling the press that he was pleased with Edward’s situation, and still believed Russia was the best choice for his asylum, saying he wouldn’t have to worry about people “rushing across the border to render him.” Snowden commented that his son found living in Russia “comfortable,” and Moscow “modern and sophisticated.” Snowden’s Russian lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, announced on October 31 that his client had found a website maintenance job at one of Russia’s largest websites, but refused to identify the site for “security reasons.” Jesselyn Radack, one of Snowden’s American lawyers, said she was “not aware” of any new job. Asked about this by The Moscow Times in June 2014, The Guardian correspondent Luke Harding replied, “Kucherena is completely unreliable as a source. We [The Guardian] did the rounds of Russian IT companies when he made that claim last year and none of themnone of the big ones, at leastconfirmed this.”
Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, who had traveled to Russia to give Snowden a whistleblower award, said that Snowden did not give any storage devices such as hard drives or USB flash drives to Russia or China, and that the four laptops he carried with him “were a ‘diversion’ and contained no secrets.” U.S. officials said they assumed that any classified materials downloaded by Snowden had fallen into the hands of China and Russia, though they acknowledged they had no proof of this. In an October 2013 interview, Snowden maintained that he did not bring any classified material into Russia “because it wouldn’t serve the public interest.” He added, “There’s a zero percent chance the Russians or Chinese have received any documents.” In June 2015, however, The Sunday Times reported that British government officials anonymously claimed to the paper that Russia and China had cracked an encrypted cache of files taken by Snowden, forcing the withdrawal of British spies from live operations. The BBC also stated that their sources told them British intelligence assets had been moved as a precaution after the Snowden leaks. Several prominent media outlets and persons have disputed the validity of The Sunday Times’s story. The Intercept’s Greenwald said the report had “retraction-worthy fabrications,” and “does […] nothing other than quote anonymous British officials,” and notes that parts of the Times’s report was removed from the original post without the Times saying it did so;The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple stated that CNN reporter George Howell may have unknowingly damage the report’s credibility in an on-air interview with the story’s lead author Tom Harper “by asking obvious questions about the story.”
WikiLeaks released video of Snowden on October 11 taken during the Sam Adams Award reception in Moscow, his first public appearance in three months. Former U.S. government officials attending the ceremony said they saw no evidence Snowden was under the control of Russian security services. The whistleblower group said he was in good spirits, looked well, and still believes he was right to release the NSA documents. In the video, Snowden said “people all over the world are coming to realize” that the NSA’s surveillance programs put people in danger, hurt the U.S. and its economy, and “limit our ability to speak and think and live and be creative, to have relationships and associate freely” as well as putting people “at risk of coming into conflict with our own government.”
On October 31, German lawmaker Hans-Christian Strbele traveled to Moscow to meet with Snowden, whom he invited to testify before the German parliament to assist investigations into NSA surveillance of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone since 2002. After the visit, Snowden indicated a willingness to testify, though not from Moscow as Germany requested. Snowden said he would rather give testimony before the U.S. Congress, his second choice being Berlin.
Also in October, journalist Glenn Greenwald commented on Snowden’s Russian asylum: “[Snowden] didn’t choose to be there. He was trying to get transit to Latin America, and then the U.S. revoked his passport and threatened other countries out of offering Snowden safe passage.” WikiLeaks representative Sarah Harrison, who accompanied Snowden from Hong Kong to Moscow, left Russia in early November after waiting until she felt confident he had “established himself and was free from the interference of any government.”
On December 17, 2013, Snowden wrote an open letter to the people of Brazil offering to assist the Brazilian government in investigating allegations of U.S. spying, and added that he continued to seek, and would require, asylum. Snowden wrote, “Until a country grants permanent political asylum, the U.S. government will continue to interfere with my ability to speak going so far as to force down the Presidential Plane of Evo Morales to prevent me from traveling to Latin America!” Brazil had been in an uproar since Snowden revealed that the U.S. was spying on Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, her senior advisors, and Brazil’s national oil company, Petrobras. Rousseff and officials of the Brazilian foreign ministry said in response that they could not consider asylum for Snowden because they had not received any formal request. A representative of the foreign ministry said that a fax requesting asylum had been sent to the Brazilian embassy in Moscow in July but it had not been signed and could not be authenticated. David Miranda, the Brazilian partner of Glenn Greenwald, launched an internet petition urging the Brazilian president to consider offering Snowden asylum.
Snowden met with Barton Gellman of The Washington Post six months after the disclosure for an exclusive interview spanning 14 hours, his first since being granted temporary asylum. Snowden talked about his life in Russia as “an indoor cat,” reflected on his time as an NSA contractor, and discussed at length the revelations of global surveillance and their reverberations. Snowden said, “In terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished I already won. As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated.” He commented “I am not trying to bring down the NSA, I am working to improve the NSA I am still working for the NSA right now. They are the only ones who don’t realize it.” On the accusation from former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden that he had defected, Snowden stated, “If I defected at all, I defected from the government to the public.” In 2014, Snowden said that he lives “a surprisingly open life” in Russia and that he is recognized when he goes to computer stores.
According to BuzzFeed, in January 2014 an anonymous Pentagon official said that he wanted to kill Snowden, claiming that By [Snowden] showing who our collections partners were, the terrorists have dropped those carriers and email addresses.” Other intelligence analysts expressed their anger to BuzzFeed as well, with an Army intelligence officer complaining that Snowden’s leaks had increased his “blindness” and expressing his hope that Snowden would be killed in a covert way. When asked about the BuzzFeed story, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said death threats were “totally inappropriate” and had no place in our discussion of these issues.”
On Meet the Press in late January 2014, speculation arose from top U.S. officials in the House and Senate Intelligence Committees that Snowden might have been assisted by Russian intelligence, prompting a rare interview during which Snowden spoke in his defense. He told The New Yorker “this ‘Russian spy’ push is absurd,” adding that he “clearly and unambiguously acted alone, with no assistance from anyone, much less a government.”The New York Times reported that investigations by the NSA and the FBI “have turned up no evidence that Mr. Snowden was aided by others.” Days later, Feinstein stated that she had seen no evidence that Snowden is a Russian spy. Germany’s Der Spiegel suggested the accusations were part of a “smear campaign” by U.S. officials. For Snowden, the smears did not “mystify” him; he said that “outlets report statements that the speakers themselves admit are sheer speculation.”
In late January 2014, US attorney general, Eric Holder in an interview with MSNBC indicated that the U.S. could allow Snowden to return from Russia under negotiated terms, saying he was prepared to engage in conversation with him, but that full clemency would be going too far.
Snowden’s first television interview aired January 26, 2014 on Germany’s NDR. In April 2014, he appeared on video from an undisclosed location during President Putin’s live annual Q&A exchange with the public. Snowden asked, “Does Russia intercept, store, or analyzein any waythe communications of individuals?” Putin replied, “Russia uses surveillance techniques for spying on individuals only with the sanction of a court order. This is our law, and therefore there is no mass surveillance in our country.” Reactions were split. Critics said it looked like a “highly-scripted propaganda stunt for Vladimir Putin” and that Snowden is “bought and paid for entirely by the Russians.” Snowden insisted his question was designed to hold the Russian president accountable. In an op-ed for The Guardian, Snowden said his question was intended “to mirror the now infamous exchange in US Senate intelligence committee hearings between senator Ron Wyden and the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, about whether the NSA collected records on millions of Americans, and to invite either an important concession or a clear evasion.” Snowden called Putin’s response “evasive”. A few days later, The Daily Beast reported that Snowden himself “instantly regretted” asking Putin the “softball question”, which was crafted with several of his key advisers, and that he was mortified by the reaction. Ben Wizner, one of Snowden’s legal advisers, told the Beast that Snowden hadn’t realized how much his appearance with Putin would be seen as a Kremlin propaganda victory. “I know this is hard to believe,” Wizner acknowledged. “I know if I was just watching from afar, I’d think, ‘Wow, they forced him to do this.’ But it’s not true. He just fucking did it.” Asked six months later about the incident, Snowden conceded, “Yeah, that was terrible! Oh, Jesus, that blew up in my face. And in the United States, what I did appearing at that Putin press conference was not worth the price.”
In March 2014, the international advocacy group European Digital Rights (EDRi) reported that the European Parliament, in adopting a Data Protection Reform Package, rejected amendments that would have dropped charges against Snowden and granted him asylum or refugee status.
In May 2014, NBC’s Brian Williams presented the first interview for American television. In June, The Washington Post reported that during his first year of Russian asylum, Snowden had received “tens of thousands of dollars in cash awards and appearance fees from privacy organizations and other groups,” fielded inquiries about book and movie projects, and was considering taking a position with a South African foundation that would support work on security and privacy issues. “Any moment that he decides that he wants to be a wealthy person,” said Snowden’s attorney Ben Wizner, “that route is available to him,” although the U.S. government could attempt to seize such proceeds.
Also in May, the German Parliamentary Committee investigating the NSA spying scandal unanimously decided to invite Snowden to testify as a witness. In September, opposition parties in the German parliament filed constitutional complaints to force the government to let Snowden testify in Berlin. Snowden had refused a proposed video conference from Moscow, saying he wants to testify only in Berlin and asking for safe conduct.
On July 13, 2014, The Guardian published its first story based on an exclusive, seven-hour interview newly conducted with Snowden in a Moscow city centre hotel. Snowden condemned the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill announced to the UK’s House of Commons on July 10 bolstering the state’s right to keep personal data held by Internet and phone companies. Snowden said it was very unusual for a public body to pass such emergency legislation except during total war. “I mean we don’t have bombs falling. We don’t have U-boats in the harbor. It defies belief.” The Daily Mail reported that Snowden had “caused fury” by attacking Britain. “His critics said the new surveillance Bill was being pushed through Parliament today largely because of his treachery in leaking Britain’s spy secrets.” On July 13 and 17, The Guardian posted video clips, of about 2 minutes and 14 minutes in length, excerpted from the full interview. On July 18, The Guardian published a nearly 10,000-word “edited transcript” of their Snowden interview. A year after arriving in Moscow, Snowden said he is still learning Russian. He keeps late and solitary hours, effectively living on U.S. time. He does not drink, cooks for himself but doesn’t eat much. “I don’t live in absolute secrecy,” he says. “I live a pretty open lifebut at the same time I don’t want to be a celebrity.” He does not work for a Russian organization, yet is financially secure thanks to substantial savings from his years as a well-paid contractor and more recently numerous awards and speaking fees from around the world.
On August 7, 2014, six days after Snowden’s one-year temporary asylum expired, his Russian lawyer announced that Snowden had received a three-year residency permit. “He will be able to travel freely within the country and go abroad,” said Anatoly Kucherena. “He’ll be able to stay abroad for not longer than three months.” Kucherena explained that Snowden had not been granted political asylum, which would allow him to stay in Russia permanently but requires a separate process. “In the future,” he added, “Edward will have to decide whether to continue to live in Russia and become a citizen or to return to the United States.” In May 2015, The New York Times reported, “Snowden’s main source of income is speaking fees, which have sometimes exceeded $10,000 for an appearance.”
A subject of controversy, Snowden has been variously called a hero, a whistleblower, a dissident, a patriot, and a traitor. His release of NSA material was called the most significant leak in U.S. history by Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg, who said, “Snowden’s disclosures are a true constitutional moment” enabling the press to hold the Executive branch of the U.S. federal government accountable, while the legislative and judiciary branch refused to do so. On January 14, 2014, Ellsberg posted to his Twitter page: “Edward Snowden has done more for our Constitution in terms of the Fourth and First Amendment than anyone else I know.”
On June 9, 2013, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper condemned Snowden’s actions as having done “huge, grave damage” to U.S. intelligence capabilities. On June 27, 2013, The Monterey Herald reported that the United States Army had barred its personnel from access to parts of the website of The Guardian after that site’s revelations of Snowden’s information about global surveillance. The entire Guardian website was blocked for personnel stationed throughout Afghanistan, the Middle East, and South Asia.
Journalist Naomi Wolf in June 2013 questioned the authenticity of Snowden’s story. She elucidated her “creeping concern that the NSA leaker is not who he purports to be, and that the motivations involved in the story may be more complex than they appear to be”, and in what was called a “conspiracy theory”, presented a series of questions concerning the official narrative. “From the standpoint of the police state and its interests,” she asks, “why have a giant Big Brother apparatus spying on us at all times unless we know about it?”
Read more here:
Edward Snowden – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia