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PROFILE – US whistleblower Edward Snowden

Former US security subcontractor Edward Snowden, who left his mark on the last decade by leaking highly classified information from the country’s National Security Agency (NSA) in 2013, has been granted Russian citizenship.

 

The 39-year-old whistleblower shared classified material about top-secret NSA programs, including the PRISM surveillance program, with The Guardian and The Washington Post, both of which published their first exposes in early June 2013 when he was still an employee and subcontractor of the agency.

 

Snowden’s disclosure of thousands of documents sparked long and intense debates on the balance between national security and individual privacy and has made him the target of both admiration and accusations of treachery.

 

Today, Snowden’s leak has become a benchmark to compare similar large-scale leaks of secret government information, as in the 2016 release of the Panama Papers, which contained 11.5 million documents, some 2.6 terabytes of data — often described as “more than that released by US intelligence informant Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks.”

 

Revealing numerous global surveillance programs, many run by the NSA and the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, comprising the US, UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, along with the cooperation of telecom providers and European authorities, the Snowden leak also opened discussions among governments around the world on spying or wiretapping.

 

The former defense subcontractor, whom the US has accused of stealing government property and two other counts under the 1917 Espionage Act, left the country soon after the leak and received asylum in Russia on Aug. 1, 2013.

 

After nearly 10 years of asylum, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on Monday granting Snowden Russian citizenship. Below is a brief timeline of Snowden’s life and the events that have transpired since 2013, compiled by Anadolu Agency:

 

Early life, CIA and NSA years

 

Snowden was born on June 21, 1983 in the US state of North Carolina.

 

He dropped out of high school and studied intermittently at a community college between 1999 and 2005.

 

Although Snowden enlisted in the Army Reserve as a special forces candidate in 2004, he was discharged the same year.

 

In 2005, he worked as a security guard at the Center for the Advanced Study of Language, a University of Maryland research facility affiliated with the NSA.

 

As he demonstrated his skill with computers without formal education, he was hired by the CIA in 2006.

 

Snowden left the CIA for the NSA in 2009 and worked as a private contractor for the companies Dell and Booz Allen Hamilton.

 

He began gathering information on a number of NSA activities, particularly secret surveillance programs.

 

After requesting medical leave, he traveled to Hong Kong in 2013 just before his leak was beginning to be made public.

 

‘Global surveillance disclosure’

 

2013:

 

On June 5, 2013, the first of Snowden’s documents are published simultaneously by The Washington Post and The Guardian, attracting significant public attention.

 

In a video interview on June 9, Snowden says he had no intention of hiding his identity, denying any wrongdoing.

 

On June 23, he leaves Hong Kong on a flight to Moscow.

 

Snowden attends a meeting at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on July 12, his first public appearance in weeks.

 

The former NSA subcontractor is deemed worthy of the “Whistleblower Award” in Germany by the Union of German Scientists, International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA) and Transparency International on July 22.

 

On Aug. 1, Snowden is given asylum for a year in Russia.

 

His lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, says Snowden would start working in Moscow for an unnamed Russian website as of Nov. 1.

 

On Dec. 20, The Guardian reveals another batch of leaked Snowden files detailing that British and American intelligence agencies possessed a comprehensive list of surveillance targets, including prominent names.

 

He addresses Britons on an annual “Alternative Christmas Message” by broadcaster Channel 4 on Dec. 25.

 

2014:

 

In an interview with German public broadcaster ARD TV on Jan. 27, Snowden accuses US intelligence services of industrial espionage and claims that officials intended to assassinate him.

 

He is nominated for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize by Brazilian Senator Vanessa Grazziotin on Feb. 5.

 

On April 8, Snowden addresses European politicians from Moscow via video-link at a Council of Europe hearing on mass surveillance.

 

The Washington Post and The Guardian US are awarded the 2014 Pulitzer Prize on April 14 for their stories on the “revelation of widespread secret surveillance” by the NSA.

 

On Dec. 10, Snowden speaks via videoconference at an event organized by Amnesty International, saying that the US had committed “inexcusable crimes,” commenting on a recently published report on CIA torture released by the American Senate.

 

2015:

 

On Feb. 23, a documentary on former Snowden’s revelations wins an Oscar for best documentary at the 87th Academy Awards.

 

Newly leaked documents from Snowden reveal on March 10 that the CIA had tried for several years to crack the security code protecting Apple devices from hackers.

 

The White House on July 29 dismisses a petition, signed by more than 150,000 people, to pardon Snowden.

 

2016:

 

On Aug. 16, Snowden claims that a purported leak of NSA cyberweapons by hackers is likely the work of Russia.

 

He launches a campaign on Sept. 14, supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International, to receive an official pardon from President Barack Obama that would allow him to return to the US.

 

2017:

 

Russia extends Snowden’s residence permit until 2020, his Russian lawyer Anatoliy Kucherena confirms.

 

2018:

 

Software made by an Israeli cybersecurity firm is used to track murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Snowden claims on Nov. 7.

 

2019:

 

On April 11, he calls the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Assange a “dark moment for press freedom.”

 

His memoir, Permanent Record, is published on Sept. 17, and Snowden says he wants to return to the US if a fair trial is guaranteed.

 

Meanwhile, the US Justice Department files a lawsuit against him for violating non-disclosure agreements he signed with the CIA and as a contractor with the NSA.

 

2020:

 

On April 16, Snowden applies to extend his residence permit in Russia for another three years.

 

On Nov. 2, Snowden and his wife apply for Russian citizenship.

 

His wife Lindsay Mills gives birth to a son on Dec. 26.

 

After nearly two years, Putin signs the decree granting Russian citizenship to Snowden.

 

Source: Anadolu Agency