Edward Snowden talking

Edward Snowden

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Added Jun 11, 2013 at 12:16AM EDT by Brad.

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Edward Snowden is an American system administrator and a former employee of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) who worked as a contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA) before leaking highly classified information on the agency's top-secret PRISM surveillance program to the British newspaper The Guardian in June 2013.

Online History


This account is based on profile articles and interviews published by The Guardian[15]:

In May 2004, Snowden enlisted in the United States Army as a special forces recruit but was discharged in September after suffering injuries on both of his legs while training. He then worked as a security guard for the National Security Agency's covert facility at the University of Maryland, before joining the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as an IT security personnel. In 2007, Snowden was dispatched to Geneva, Switzerland, where he worked as a network security administrator with diplomatic cover. In 2009, he left the agency for a private contractor company and worked inside an NSA facility on a U.S. military base in Japan. Little is known is about Snowden's whereabouts thereafter, but sometime between late March and early April 2013, he began working for U.S. defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton as a system administrator inside an NSA facility in Hawaii. In May 2013, Snowden took a temporary medical leave from his position. According to the real estate agents, Snowden and his girlfriend moved out of their home on May 1st.

2013 NSA PRISM Scandal

In January 2013, Snowden made contact with Laura Poitras, a Freedom of the Press board member and documentary filmmaker who previously reported on the NSA official William Binney's whistleblowing for the New York Times in 2001, according to Poitras. In February, Snowden began working with The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald, followed by first direct contact with The Washington Post's Barton Gellman in May. According to the journalists, Snowden communicated using encrypted mail under the codename "Verax," Latin for "truth-teller," and requested not to be quoted at length to safeguard identification by semantic analysis.

TOP HotmailGoogle facebook RISM CTSISUNF) PRISM Collection Details What Will You Receive in Collection (Surveillance and Stored Comms)? It varies by provider. In general Current Providers * E-mail " Microsoft (Hotmail, etc.) . Google Chat-video, voice . Videos e Photos " Stored data Yahoo! * Facebook PalTalk * YouTube . Skype AOL VolP File transfers . Video Conferencing Notifications of target activity logins, etc. Online Social Networking details Apple : Special Requests Complete list and details on PRISM web page: Go PRISMFAA TOP SECRET SLWORCONONOFORN TOP SECRET SWORCONIINOFORN otrnail-Coogle akYou ube OL mail& GMail facebook (TS/ISUNE Dates When PRISM Collection Began For Each Provider RISM (added Oct AOL 3/31/11 YouTube 2/8/11 9/24/10 PalTak 12/7/09 14/09 Yahoo Microsoft31208 911/07 PRISM Program Cost:- $20M per year 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 TOP SECRET

The Guardian Interview

On June 8th, three days after The Guardan published the story about NSA surveillance programs, Snowden revealed his identity to the public's eye in an interview with the UK newspaper. In the video, Snowden provides a brief description of the agency's data-mining infrastructure and its capabilities, such as intercepting e-mails, phone calls, passwords and credit cards.

"Now increasingly we see that [clandestine intelligence gathering is] happening domestically and to do that they, the NSA specifically, targets the communications of everyone. It ingests them by default. It collects them in its system and it filters them and it analyses them and it measures them and it stores them for periods of time simply because that's the easiest, most efficient, and most valuable way to achieve these ends. So while they may be intending to target someone associated with a foreign government or someone they suspect of terrorism, they're collecting you're communications to do so."

The Guardian also reported that Snowden first thought about exposing government surveillance in 2007, but Barack Obama's election in 2008 gave him a sense of hope. However, Snowden became disenchanted after Obama "ultimately advanced the surveillance policies rather than reforming them." When asked about the motive behind his whistleblowing, Snowden told The Washington Post that he wanted to raise public awareness of "surveillance state" that the country was becoming so they could decide.

Online Reactions



On June 9th, an online petition titled "Pardon Edward Snowden" was submitted to the White House[3], demanding the Obama administration to "issue a full, free and absolute pardon for any crimes he has committed or may have committed related to blowing the whistle on secret NSA surveillance programs." The petition was quickly picked up by the news media and blogospher, reaching more than half of its signature goal of 100,000 in the first 48 hours. On June 10th, after The Guardian reported that Snowden may be seeking asylum in Iceland, a petition was submitted to Change.org[5] requesting the Icelandic government to grant asylum to Snowden. That same day, a crowdfunding campaign seeking to thank Snowden with a reward was launched on Crowdtilt.[10]

WE PETITION THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION TO: Pardon Edward Snowden Edward Snowden is a national hero and should be immediately issued a a full, free, and absolute pardon for any crimes he has committed or may have committed related to blowing the whistle orn secret NSA surveillance programs. Created: Jun 09, 2013 Issues: Civil Rights and Liberties, Government Reform, Human Rights Learn about Petition Thresholds SIGNATURES NEEDED BY JULY 09,2013 TO REACH GOAL OF 100,000 40,13 TOTAL SIGNATURES 59,387 ON THIS PETITION Petitioning Iceland lceland : Grant asylum to NSA whistle blower Edward Snowden. Sign this petition with 337 supporters 163 NEEDED Petition by John Doe Snowden is in hiding in Hong Kong, having left his girlfriend, job, and ife, to follow his conscience and expose vast NSA spying overreaches. He is afraid he will be kidnapped by the CIA, criminal:s working for them like the Triads, or Chinese Intelligence operatives. He puts a hood over his head and computer when entering his passwords due to fears of cameras. His greatest hope is that Iceland will grant him asylum. Share Reward Edward Shouden for courageously leaking NSA docs To date $5,140 9 days Contribute O T--- atつ $10,000 Target $15,00uony be charged if the campaign tisi

On October 29th, a website called FreeSnowden was launched by the Journalistic Source Protection Defence Fund (JSPDF), a newly founded UK organization with close affiliation to WikiLeaks, to raise money for Snowden's legal defense. According to the website, the JSPDF is the only fundraiser campaign endorsed by WikiLeaks and Snowden himself and its accounting is administered by Derek Rothera & Company LLP, which also handles the legal defense fund for Julian Assange. Donations can be made by credit card, bank transfer, PayPal and WePay, as well as virtual currencies Bitcoin and Litecoin.

Post-PRISM Leaks

Regional Activities

  • U.S. Spying in China & Hong Kong: On June 14th, the South China Morning Post[28] published an interview with Snowden in which he revealed that the United States government had been hacking into computers in Hong Kong and on the Chinese mainland since 2009.
  • British Surveillance Program: On June 16th, The Guardian[29] reported that the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) had intercepted communications of foreign politicians and envoys during the London G20 summit meetings in 2009, citing documents leaked by Snowden. On August 1st, The Guardian[35] published an article about additional documents leaked by Snowden claiming that the US government gave the GCHQ £100 million in funding to maintain its influence over the surveillance programs overseas.
  • U.S. Spying in Germany: On June 30th, the German news site Spiegel[32] reported that the NSA spies on 500 million data connections in Germany every day. On July 8th, Spiegel[33] published an interview with Snowden, in which he claims the NSA is “in bed together with the Germans” and the German intelligence agencies had contributed to the NSA’s XKeyscore data collection network.
  • U.S. Domestic Surveillance: On June 27th, The Guardian[31] reported that the Obama administration allowed the NSA to continue the "Stellar Wind" program started under President George W. Bush, which collected vast amounts of records detailing email and Internet usage of Americans. On September 28th, the New York Times[45] published an article revealing that the NSA had used American phone and Internet data to create a map of social connections.
  • U.S. Spying in the Middle East: On August 23rd, The Independent[36] reported that Snowden provided leaked documents revealing a secret data-gathering base located in the Middle East. The article was subsequently disputed by Greenwald,[37] who quoted Snowden claiming he had never "provided any journalistic materials to The Independent." On August 31st, Spiegel[40] published an article about documents leaked by Snowden showing that the Arab news broadcaster Al Jazeera had been spied on by the NSA. On September 2nd, The Washington Post[41] reported that Snowden had provided documents showing that US intelligence had focused as intensely on Pakistan as they had on non-ally countries Iran and North Korea. * On September 11th, The Guardian[44] reported on a new secret document leaked by Snowden, outlining how the NSA shares intelligence data with Israel prior to removing information about US citizens.
  • U.S. Spying in Brazil: On September 1st, the Brazilian news site Fantástico[42] published an interview with Greenwald, who claimed to have seen documents provided by Snowden indicating that the NSA had spied on Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff.

Surveillance Programs

  • Skype's Project Chess: On June 19th, The New York Times[30] published an article on additional documents leaked by Snowden, which revealed that the Internet communications company Skype had test-launched a secret surveillance program called Project Chess in 2008 to assist government intelligence agencies and law enforcement.
  • XKeyscore Program: On July 31st, The Guardian[34] reported on the XKeyscore program, which is reportedly capable of collecting every aspect of an Internet user’s activities, including the content of personal emails, web search history and browsing patterns, as well as their metadata.
  • NSA's Encryption-Cracking Capability: On September 5th, The Guardian[43] published an article revealing that the NSA had cracked various encryption methods used to secure various online communications, some of which may have been stolen.
  • Other NSA Projects: On June 28th, Greenwald claimed to have knowledge of an unpublished leaked document delivered by Snowden describing a new NSA technology that records 1 billion cell phone calls a day during his keynote speech at the Socialism 2013 conference. On August 29th, the Washington Post[39] reported on a United States spy agency "black budget" leaked by Snowden, exposing a $52.6 billion intelligence agency proposal.

Snowden Joins Twitter

On September 29th, 2015, Edward Snowden joined Twitter using the handle @Snowden. He followed only the official account for the National Security Agency, @NSA, and was immediately verified.[49] According to the Los Angeles Times, his attorney, Ben Wizner of the American Civil Liberties Union, also confirmed that Snowden personally controlled the account from his home in Russia.[50]

Edward Snowden @Snowden Follow Can you hear me now? 12:00 PM -29 Sep 2015 わ 다 82,224 ★ 73,073

According to The Intercept, Snowden decided to join Twitter after astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson asked him why he didn't belong to the social network during an interview in the week prior to his joining. The whistleblower answered that he would like to, and that he would like the handle @Snowden, which was being squatted on by an unknown user. After a request was put in to Twitter, the squatter was removed and Snowden gained access.[51]

11 hours after his first tweet, Snowden had gained over 771,000 followers. Many celebrities responded to his initial tweet by welcoming him to Twitter, including Degrasse Tyson and Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter.

Personal Life

Online Life Revealed

On June 11th, details about Snowden's personal life and digital footprints were revealed by Reuters, including his pseudonymous handle "TheTrueHOOHA" that he used on an anime forum and Ars Technica, several headshots of younger looking Snowden as an aspring model, as well as images of the girlfriend Lindsay Mills and her personal blog, which was lasted updated on June 9th (shown below):

My world has opened and closed all at once. Leaving me lost at sea without a compass. Surely there will be villainous pirates, distracting mermaids, and tides of change in this new open water chapter of my journey. But at the moment all I can feel is alone.

Other emerging details about Snowden's online posts described as an agnostic, a video gamer who offered a review of Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne and once an aspiring model who had some headshots taken. According to Anthony DeRosa and Joe Mullin of Ars Technica, TheTrueHOOHA posted a joke about how one user's Xbox 360 is "NSA's new surveillance program sometime in 2006.

Live Q&A Session

At 11 a.m. (EST) on June 17th, The Guardian launched an exclusive real-time Q&A session[21] with Edward Snowden, calling on its readers to submit their questions via its live blog or Twitter using the hashtag #AskSnowden.[24] By 12:43 p.m., Snowden had provided his answers to a total of 17 questions asked by journalists as well as readers of The Guardian. In his responses, Snowden addressed his reason behind choosing Hong Kong as his first destination, conflicting reports surrounding his claimed annual salary and accusations of his defection to China in exchange for classified intelligence. In the following hours, the highlights of Snowden's responses were summarized and compiled into articles by The Daily Beast[22] and Salon.[23]

Question: D. Aram Mushegian lI 17 June 2013 2:16pm Did you lie about your salary? What is the issue there? Why did you tell Glenn Greenwald that your salary was $200,000 a year, when it was only $122,000 (according to the firm that fired you.) Answer: I was debriefed by Glenn and his peers over a number of days, and not all of those conversations were recorded. The statement I made about earnings was that $200,000 was my career high" salary. I had to take pay cuts in the course of pursuing specific work. Booz was not the most l've been paid Question: 8 Spencer Ackerman 17 June 2013 4:16pm Edward, there is rampant speculation, outpacing facts, that you have or will provide classified US information to the Chinese or other governments in exchange for asylum. Have/will you? Answer: This is a predictable smear that I anticipated before going public, as the US media has a knee-jerk "RED CHINA!" reaction to anything involving HK or the PRC, and is intended to distract from the issue of US government misconduct. Ask yourself: if I were a Chinese spy, why wouldn't I have flown directly into Beijing? I could be living in a palace petting a phoenix by now. Question Mathius1 17 June 2013 2:54pm s encrypting my email any good at defeating the NSA survelielance? ld my data protected by standard encryption? Answer: Encryption works. Properly implemented strong crypto systems are one of the few things that you can rely on Unfortunately, endpoint security is so terrifically weak that NSA can frequently find ways around it.
Question: ewenmacaskill 17 June 2013 3:07pm I should have asked you this when I saw you but never got round to it..Why did you just not fly direct to Iceland if that is your preferred country for asylum? Answer: Leaving the US was an incredible risk, as NSA employees must declare thei foreign travel 0 days in advance and are monitored. There was a distinct possibility I would be interdicted en route, so I had to travel with no advance booking to a country with the cultural and legal framework to allow me to work without being immediately detained. Hong Kong provided that. Iceland could be pushed harder, quicker, before the public could have a chance to make their feelings known, and I not put that past the current US administration. Question: Anthony De Rosa 17 June 2013 2:18pm 1) Define in as much detail as you can what "direct access" means alysts listen to warrant Answer: 1) More detail on how direct NSA's accesses are is coming, but in general, the reality is this: if an NSA, FBl, CIA, DIA, etc analyst has access to query raw SIGINT databases, they can enter and get results for anything they want. Phone number, email, user id, cell phone handset id (IMEI), and so on it's all the same. The restrictions against this are policy based, not technically based, and can change at any time. Additionally, audits are cursory, incomplete, and easily fooled by fake justifications. For at least GCHQ, the number of audited queries is only 5% of those performed. Anthony De Rosa 17 June 2013 2:18pm 1) Define in as much detail as you can what "direct access" means 2) Can analysts listen to content of domestic calls without a warrant? 2) NSA likes to use "domestic" as a weasel word here for a number of reasons. The reality is that due to the FISA Amendments Act and its section 702 authorities, Americans' communications are collected and viewed on a daily basis on the certification of an analyst rather than a warrant. They excuse this as "incidental" collection, but at the end of the day, someone at NSA still has the content of your communications Even in the event of "warranted" intercept, it's important to understand the intelligence community doesn't always deal with what you would consider a "real" warrant like a Police department would have to, the "warrant" is more of a templated form they fill out and send to a reliable judge with a rubber stamp.

Nobel Peace Prize Nomination

On July 13th, 2013, Swedish sociology professor Stefan Svallfors tweeted a screenshot of a letter he was going to submit to the Norwegian Nobel Prize committee nominated Edward Snowden for the Nobel Peace Prize. In the letter, Svallfors lauds Snowden for sacrificing so much of his personal life for the greater good. The letter also asserted that awarding the prize to Snowden would "help to save the Nobel Peace Prize from … disrepute" after the committee award the prize to Barack Obama 10 months into his presidency. According to Russia Today[26], a member of the International Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) confirmed that all of this year's deadlines for nominations have passed and it is unlikely he will make the shortlist. Despite the nomination, Russian official Alexei Pushkov tweeted[27] that it is unlikely the U.S. would allow the Prize to be given to Snowden.

NBC News Interview

On March 28th, 2014, NBC News broadcast an exclusive interview with Snowden by anchor Brian Williams (shown below). During the interview, Snowden claimed he was trained as a spy, refuting President Barack Obama's description of him as a "hacker" and others claiming he was a low-ranking analyst. He went on to reveal that he had initially planned to go to Cuba and Latin America but he was stranded in Moscow after his passport was revoked by the State Department, and that he hopes to return to the United States someday. Additionally, he claimed he did not have any contact with the Russian government and did not disclose any information to them.

Last Week With John Oliver Interview

Snowden was the surprise guest on the April 5th, 2015 episode of Last Week With John Oliver, a comedy news show on American cable network HBO. During the interview, Snowden explained his knowledge of the expanse of the United States government's institutionalized spying programs by explaining exactly what circumstances were required for the government to gain access to a picture of a penis that a user might try to send electronically. Within three days of airing, the episode had over 3,000,000 views online.

On April 6th, 2015, developer Olivier Lacan created the web site Cantheyseemydick.com [46] detailing the specifics of the spying programs in the same language used in the interview.

Edward Snowden Bust Installation Prank

On April 6th, 2015, several New York City artists collaborated to secretly enter Fort Greene Park, in Brooklyn, New York, and adhere a bust-style statue of Edward Snowden to a previously existing war monument.[47] The artists, speaking on condition of anonymity to news blog Animal New York, stated: "We have updated this monument to highlight those who sacrifice their safety in the fight against modern-day tyrannies."

The piece was removed later that day by the New York City Parks Department. That night, protest group The Illuminator projected a hologram image of the bust on to the same monument for the duration of the night.[48]

Extradition Rumor

On January 15th, 2017, former CIA acting director Michael Morell wrote an opinion column suggesting that Vladimir Putin deliver Snowden to Trump as "the perfect inauguration gift."[55] On February 8th, Snowden tweeted criticism of a Russian anti-terror law, referring to it with the hashtag "#BigBrotherLaw" (shown below).[52]

Edward Snowden @Snowden Following I am not Russian, and so cannot vote. But even an outsider can see Yarovaya's #BigBrotherLaw violates not only rights, but reason itself. RETWEETS LIKES 685 1,414 9:24 AM- 8 Feb 2017

On February 10th, CNBC[53] reported that Russia was considering extraditing Snowden to the United States as a "gift" to President Donald Trump. That day, Snowden tweeted that the rumor was "irrefutable evidence" that he did not never cooperate with Russian intelligence.[56] On February 11th, Snowden tweeted that he would not stop criticizing Russia's oppressive "Big Brother" law and that he was not afraid of extradition (shown below).[54]

Edward Snowden @Snowden Feb 11 Days ago, I criticized the Russian government's oppressive new "Big Brother" law. Now, threatening rumors. But I won't stop Edward Snowden @Snowden This law harms both Russians and Russia. Rather than entering into force in 2018, it should be repealed or amended. vedomosti.ru/technology/art. わ263 仁一2.5K 5.9K Edward Snowden @Snowden Following l don't know if the rumors are true. But I can tell you this: I am not afraid. There are things that must be said no matter the consequence RETWEETSLIKES 4,149 10,504 r. 4:25 PM - 11 Feb 2017

Search Interest

External References

[1] The Guardian – NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden: 'I don't want to live in a society that does these sort of things' – video

[2] The Guardian – NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily

[3] We The People (via Wayback Machine) – Pardon Edward Snowden

[4] Reddit – [AMA REQUEST] NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden

[5] Change.org – Iceland : Grant asylum to NSA whistle blower Edward Snowden.

[6] Reddit – Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind revelations of NSA surveillance

[7] The Guardian – Edward Snowden: experts divided over extradition of NSA whistleblower

[8] BBC News – US spy leaker Edward Snowden 'missing' in Hong Kong

[9] Facebook – #IStandWithEdwardSnowden

[10] Crowdtilt (via Wayback Machine) – Reward Edward Snowden for courageously leaking NSA docs

[11] BoingBoing – Sweden Smearing Begins

[12] Gawker – The Vain Media Cynics of the NSA Story

[13] International Herald Tribune – The Solitary Leaker

[14] LA Times – Edward Snowden fired, Booz Allen Hamilton says

[15] The Guardian – Edward Snowden

[16] Reuters (via Wayback Machine) – While working for spies, Snowden was secretly prolific online

[17] Slate – Snowden Wrote 700-Plus Posts on Chat Boards About Everything From Government to Girls

[18] BuzzFeed – Edward Snowden’s Online Past Revealed

[19] Ars Technica – NSA leaker Ed Snowden’s life on Ars Technica

[20] BoingBoing – NSA whistleblower was a frequent, long-time Ars Technica message-board commenter

[21] The Guardian – Edward Snowden Q and A: NSA whistleblower answers your questions

[22] Daily Beast – The Best Bits From Edward Snowden’s Live Q&A Session

[23] Salon – Five major takeaways from Edward Snowden Q&A

[24] Twitter – Tweet Results for #AskSnowden

[25] The Daily Dot – 6 key takeaways from Edward Snowden's Q&A

[26] Russia Today – ‘Heroic effort at great personal cost’: Edward Snowden nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

[27] Twitter – @Alexey_Pushkov's Tweet

[28] South China Morning Post – Edward Snowden – US Government has been hacking Hong Kong and China for years

[29] The Guardian – GCHQ intercepted foreign politicians' communications at G20 summits

[30] New York Times – Webs Reach Binds NSA and Silicon Valley Leaders

[31] The Guardian – NSA collected US email records in bulk

[32] Spiegel – NSA Snoops on 500 Million German Data Connections

[33] Spigel – Edward Snowden Interview The NSA and Its Willing Helpers

[34] The Guardian – XKeyscore NSA tool collects nearly everything a user does on the Internet

[35] The Guardian – NSA pays 100m in secret funding

[36] The Independent – UKs secret mid east internet surveillance base

[37] The Guardian – UK government now leaking documents about itself

[38] Washington Post – US spy network sucessess and failures

[39] Washington Post – US spy networks successes failures and objectives

[40] Spiegel – Snow Document – NSA Spied on Al Jazeera

[41] Washington Post – Top-secret US Intelligence files show new levels of distrust of Pakistan

[42] Globo – Documentos revelam esquema de agência dos EUA para espionar Dilma

[43] The Guardian – how US and UK spy agencies defeat internet privacy and security

[44] The Guardian – NSA shares raw intelligence including Americans' data with Israel

[45] The New York Times – NSA Gathers Data on Social Connections of U.S. Citizens

[46] Can They See My Dick – website

[47] AnimalNY – There's a Massive, Illicit Bust of Edward Snowden Stuck to a War Memorial in Brooklyn

[48] New York Daily News – Edward Snowden bust on Brooklyn park war memorial replaced with hologram image

[49] Twitter – @Snowden

[50] Los Angeles Times – Edward Snowden joins Twitter, immediately gets more followers than NSA

[51] The Intercept – Edward Snowden Is On Twitter: @Snowden

[52] Twitter – @Snowden

[53] CNBC – Russia Considers Returning Snowden to US

[54] Twitter – @Snowden

[55] The Cipher Brief – Putins Perfect Gift

[56] Twitter – @Snowden

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