Edward Snowden, a former contractor for the CIA, left the US in late May after leaking to the media details of extensive internet and phone surveillance by American intelligence. Mr Snowden, who has been granted temporary asylum in Russia, faces espionage charges over his actions.

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In , Edward Snowden revealed the NSA collects personal data on every American, as well as many more people worldwide. The shockwave of the revelations still ripples today.


What is the nsa?

T he individual responsible for one of the most ificant leaks in US political history is Edward Snowdena year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden has been working at the National Security Agency for the last four years as an employee of nsa outside contractors, including Booz Allen and Dell. The Guardian, after several days of interviews, is revealing his identity at his request. From the moment he decided to disclose numerous top-secret documents to the down, he was determined not to opt for the protection of anonymity.

Despite his determination get be publicly unveiled, he repeatedly insisted that he wants to avoid the media spotlight. I want it to be about what the US government is doing. He does not fear the consequences of going public, he said, only that doing so will distract attention from the issues raised by his disclosures. Despite these fears, he remained hopeful his outing will not divert attention from the substance of his disclosures.

At the NSA office in Hawaii looking he was working, he copied the last set of documents he intended to disclose.

‘you can’t wait around for someone else to act’

As he packed his bags, he told his girlfriend that he had to be away for a few weeks, though he said he was vague about the reason. On May 20, he boarded a flight to Hong Kong, where he has remained ever since. In the three weeks since he arrived, he has been ensconced in a hotel room.

It is a plush hotel and, what with eating meals in his room too, he has run up big bills.

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He is deeply worried about being spied on. He lines the door of his hotel room with pillows to prevent eavesdropping. He puts a large red hood over his head and laptop when entering his passwords to prevent any hidden cameras from detecting them. Though that may sound like paranoia to some, Snowden has good reason for such fears.

He worked in the US intelligence world for almost a decade.

He knows that the biggest and most secretive surveillance organisation in America, the NSA, along with the most powerful government on the planet, is looking for him. Since the disclosures began to emerge, he has watched television and monitored the internet, hearing all the threats and vows of prosecution emanating from Washington. And he knows only too well the sophisticated technology available to them and how easy it will be for them to find him.

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The NSA police and other law enforcement officers have twice visited his home in Hawaii and already contacted his girlfriend, though he believes that may have been prompted by his absence from work, and not because of suspicions of any connection to the leaks. The US could begin extradition proceedings against him, a potentially problematic, lengthy and unpredictable course for Washington.

Or the Chinese government might whisk him away for questioning, viewing him as a useful source of information. Or he might end up being grabbed and bundled into a plane bound for US territory.

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I could have people come after me. Or any of the third-party partners. They nsa closely with a of other nations. Or they could pay off the Tri. And looking is a concern I will live with for the rest of my life, however long that happens to be. Having watched the Obama administration prosecute whistleblowers at a historically unprecedented rate, he fully expects the US government to attempt to use all its weight to punish him.

The down time he became emotional during the many hours of interviews was when he pondered the impact his choices would have on his family, many of whom work for the US government. Snowden did not always believe the US government posed a threat get his political values.

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He was brought up originally in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. By his own admission, he was not a stellar student. In order to get the credits necessary to obtain a high school diploma, he attended a community college in Maryland, studying computing, but never completed the coursework. He later obtained his GED. Inhe enlisted in the Get army and began a down program to the Special Forces. After he broke both his legs in a training accident, he was discharged. His looking of the internet and his talent for computer programming enabled him to rise fairly quickly for someone who lacked even a high school diploma.

His responsibility for maintaining computer network nsa meant he had clearance to access a wide array of classified documents. That access, along with the almost three years he spent around CIA officers, led him to begin seriously questioning the rightness of what he saw.

Uk spy agency 'taps fibre-optic cables'

get He described as formative an incident in which he claimed CIA operatives were attempting to recruit a Swiss banker to obtain secret banking information. Snowden said they achieved this by purposely getting the banker drunk and encouraging him to drive looking in his car. When the banker was arrested for drunk driving, the undercover agent seeking to befriend him offered to help, and a bond was formed that led to nsa recruitment.

He said it was during his CIA stint in Geneva that he thought for the first time about exposing government secrets. But, at the down, he chose not to for two reasons. Secondly, the election of Barack Obama in gave him hope that there would be real reforms, rendering disclosures unnecessary.

‘i am not afraid, because this is the choice i’ve made’

He left the CIA in in order to take his first job working for a private contractor that ased him to a functioning NSA facility, stationed on a military base in Japan. I had been looking for leaders, but I realised that leadership is about being the first to act. But he believed that the value of the internet, along with basic privacy, is being rapidly destroyed by ubiquitous surveillance. As strong as those beliefs are, there still remains the question: why did he do it?

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Giving up his freedom and a privileged lifestyle? If I were motivated by money, I could have sold these documents to any of countries and gotten very rich. For him, it is a matter of principle. There is no public oversight. Another hails the online organisation offering anonymity, the Tor Project. Asked by reporters to establish his authenticity to ensure he is not some fantasist, he laid bare, without hesitation, his personal details, from his social security to his CIA ID and his expired diplomatic passport. There is no shiftiness. Ask him about anything in his personal life and he will answer.

He is quiet, smart, easy-going and self-effacing.

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A master on computers, he seemed happiest when talking about the technical side of surveillance, at a level of detail comprehensible probably only to fellow communication specialists. But he showed intense nsa when talking about the value of privacy and how he felt it was being steadily eroded by the behaviour of the intelligence services.

His manner was calm and relaxed but he has been understandably twitchy since he went into hiding, looking for the knock on the hotel door. A fire alarm goes off. Strewn about the side of his bed are his suitcase, a plate with the remains of room-service breakfast, and a copy of Angler, the biography of down vice-president Dick Cheney. He seemed satisfied that the debate he longed to provoke was finally taking place. From 8, miles away, the leaker looked on impassively, not even indulging in get wry smile.

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Transparency is. He purposely chose, he said, to give the documents to journalists whose judgment he trusted about what should be public and what should remain concealed.

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As for his future, he is vague. He views his best hope as the possibility of asylum, with Iceland — with its reputation of a champion of internet freedom — at the top of his list. He knows that may prove a wish unfulfilled. I have no regrets. This article is more than 7 years old. A matter of principle As strong as those beliefs are, there still remains the question: why did he do it? Reuse this content.

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