Snowden - True Story

Edward Snowden

A criminal to some, a hero to others. The story of Edward Snowden is one of sacrifice, morality and the unbreakable resolve of a man determined to do what he thinks is right — no matter what anybody else thinks.

Edward Snowden was a 30-year-old contractor working for Dell in 2013. He’d spent the past four years working at both the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency of the United States of America. Snowden made a horrifying discovery about the NSA — American citizens were being spied on through their phone and internet data. The NSA did not have a warrant on these citizens, or enough information to classify as probable cause in the legal sense, and yet they were being spied on by their own government.

He began compiling a journal to log his discoveries. Snowden told his bosses he needed to take a leave of absence for "medical reasons" in May 2013. In actual fact, Snowden had arranged to meet American documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras and American journalists Glenn Greenwald and Barton Gellman and Scottish journalist Ewen MacAskill.

When Snowden flew to Hong Kong on May 20, 2013, he passed the point of no return. He knew the risks, and yet he shared what he found with the journalists.

The Guardian leaked information that revealed Verizon was sharing user data with the NSA. The biggest scandal, PRISM, was revealed to the public on June 6, 2013. PRISM is an NSA surveillance that monitors American citizens through their usage of products by big names like Microsoft, Apple and Yahoo.

Snowden made no attempt to hide his involvement in the leaked data. He revealed his role in the leaks on June 9, 2013, telling The Guardian: "I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong." The United States government did not share his view.

Within days Snowden was charged with theft of government property and two counts of violating the US Espionage Act: unauthorized communication of national defense information and willful communication of classified intelligence with an unauthorized person.

The situation was tense. Snowden was effectively stranded in Hong Kong. If he returned to the United States, he would be prosecuted. Edward Snowden has not since been back to the United States.

Thanks to the help of WikiLeaks, Snowden flew from Hong Kong to Russia, where he was granted a three-year residency in 2014. Snowden's girlfriend Lindsay Mills has been by his side throughout the entire journey. The two live together in Moscow, and both are hoping for a presidential pardon.

Libertarian and left-leaning American citizens tend to praise Edward Snowden as a hero. More conservative Americans tend to see Snowden's leaks as treasonous. Government officials, including President Obama, have called Edward Snowden's leaks reckless. Their consensus is that America's enemies now know classified government information, which they can use to hurt America. Snowden, and the journalists he collaborated with, have insisted they took great care in deciding what to leak, claiming less than one per cent of Snowden's findings have been revealed.

Snowden is still holding out hope for a presidential pardon, but President Obama has refused to grant one, and Hillary Clinton has also stated she will not consider a pardon. As for Donald Trump, he's suggested Snowden should be executed. ~Yanis Khamsi

** Photo of Edward Snowden is from the cover of the non-fiction book The Snowden Files by Luke Harding. Oliver Stone's 2016 movie Snowden, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the title role, is based on Harding's book and Anatoly Kucherena's novel Time of the Octopus, about a fictional American whistleblower, which was based on Kucherena's interviews with Snowden.

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