Childhood & Early Life
Edward Snowden was born on June 21, 1983, in North Carolina, USA. His father was a coast guard officer and his mother, a chief deputy at the US district court in Maryland. His grandfather served the ‘FBI’ for some years. Snowden said that ever since he was a kid, he knew that he would serve the federal government like his family members.
His parents got separated when Snowden was a teenager, but he didn’t let that affect his academics and went on acquiring top ranks in school. His mind was sharp and his I.Q. was well over 140, placing him in an elite group of people who possess high level of intelligence. An illness forced him to remain absent from high school for many days. Despite his absence from school he went straight for a ‘GED’ test, which he cracked and went on to attend classes at ‘Anne Arundel Community College.’
Though he didn’t finish his undergraduate degree, he took classes online for a master’s degree at the ‘University of Liverpool.’ He was pretty much influenced by the Japanese and Chinese culture, which encouraged him to learn Japanese and Chinese along with Chinese martial arts. He adopted Buddhism as his religion at the age of 20.
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Edward Snowden landed a job at the ‘Central Intelligence Agency’ (CIA) as an IT professional in 2006. He was stationed with a diplomatic cover in Geneva, Switzerland for maintaining computer-network security. He discovered the surveillance system which infiltrated the privacy of general public and started collecting documents. Snowden was fired following a suspicion of breaking into the top classified documents. He then went on to work with ‘Dell’ in one of NSA’s offices in Japan where he worked as a sub-contractor from 2009 until 2013.
During his time working for ‘Dell,’ he was assigned to an ‘NSA’ facility at Yokota Air Base near Tokyo. In 2012, he was reassigned to the Hawaii regional operations center as the lead technologist.
After leaving ‘Dell,’ he went on to work for another tech consultant company called ‘Booz Allen Hamilton’ where he worked for three months. His interest in the top secret files of the ‘NSA’ grew while working at ‘Booz Allen’ and he devised ways to break into the top secret vaults of their system. He then found out the practices which he thought were immoral, unethical, and needed to be halted immediately. He went on to build a dossier of all the information he collected, which he thought was necessary to prove his point.
Once he was done with collecting the relevant documents he took a medical leave, stating that he suffered from epilepsy. He arranged for a meeting with a journalist from ‘The Guardian’ and then made contact with a documentary filmmaker named Laura Poitras. In June 2013, the information was officially presented to the whole world through ‘The Guardian’ where it stated that the Americans’ phones were getting tapped without their knowledge and some of them were being kept under surveillance.
The information was gathered through ‘PRISM,’ a program devised by the ‘NSA.’ The world was shaken and ‘NSA’ went bitter as Edward kept addressing the media from Hong Kong. He told that he wouldn’t allow this to happen and that the privacy of general public was being monitored every second of the day, infringing the basic rights of human beings to be free. The US government replied to the leaks almost immediately and charged Snowden with the accusations of ‘theft of government properties’ and ‘illegal communication of intelligence information to an unauthorized person’ under the espionage act.
His leaks paved the way to unearth crucial matters, such as the ‘Black Budget’ which exposed the work of the 16 spy agencies working under the US Intelligence and their handiwork in persuading private companies to reveal and provide access to their communication network.
Snowden moved out of Hong Kong and went to Russia, where he got stranded at the airport for close to a month due to issues with his passport. But the Russian government allowed him to stay in the country and rejected several of America’s requests to extradite him. Meanwhile, Americans considered him a national hero and came up with a petition to free Snowden of all the charges. However, several appeals of clemency made by Snowden were rejected by the American government.
Snowden continued living in Russia while Barack Obama asked the intelligence agencies to look into the matter and reconsider their security protocols. In October 2013, Snowden claimed that he didn’t have the ‘NSA’ documents with him anymore and that he had given it all to the journalists in Hong Kong, fearing Russians might use them for their benefit.
He stayed in Russia for an indefinite period of exile, but he remains a controversial figure in America. He made a much-awaited appearance at the Southwest festival through teleconferencing in March 2014 and it was revealed that the US government has lost billions of dollars owing to the leaks. In May, Snowden cleared the air and said that he was a patriot and the welfare of his country’s people is on his priority list and that he would want to return to his homeland.
Several human right groups asked the US government to pardon Snowden and he himself apologized to President Obama several times, hoping that he would be allowed to enter his country.
In 2014, ‘Citizenfour,’ a documentary film on the life of Snowden, made by Poitras, came out and received huge critical acclaim, eventually winning an ‘Oscar.’ Several other films and documentaries followed and Snowden ended up achieving a celebrity status in the USA and around the world. He has constantly denied allegations of being a traitor to his country. He believes that what he did was needed as the general public had to be told how the government was keeping a watch all the time.
He made another revelation in November 2018, when he produced a court declaration in the ‘Jewel vs NSA’ case where the ‘Electronic Frontier Foundation’ (EFF) had accused ‘NSA’ and other high-ranking officials of ‘illegal and unconstitutional program of dragnet communications surveillance’ under the George W. Bush administration.