Born: 21 June 1983
Birthplace: North Carolina
Best known as: The dude who leaked top-secret info about U.S. domestic surveillance
Edward Snowden became famous when he revealed himself as the source of the 2013 news that the National Security Agency (NSA) had a wide-ranging surveillance operation in the United States and elsewhere -- that the federal government was gathering data from citizens without their consent. Snowden had been a computer analyst for contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, with access to top secret documents from the NSA (and other agencies). He contacted filmmaker Laura Poitras (an Oscar-nominee for her 2006 documentary My Country, My Country) with the information, then contacted journalists Glenn Greenwald (The Guardian) and Barton Gellman (The Washington Post) in May of 2013. The news of the NSA program broke on 6 June 2013; three days later, Snowden went public as the source of the leak. By that time, he'd fled to Hong Kong to avoid the long arm of U.S. law. Pronounced a hero by some and a traitor by others, Snowden accomplished his stated goal of stirring debate over secret government surveillance, while hoping to find asylum outside the U.S. According to early reports, Snowden had grown up in North Carolina and Maryland, spent a few months in the U.S. Army in 2004, then landed a security job in Maryland that eventually led to a job with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). According to Snowden, he worked for the CIA from 2007 to 2009, when he left to do national security work for private contractors. While working in Hawaii for Booz Allen Hamilton between March and May of 2013, Snowden had access to information on a program called PRISM, a clandestine data collection effort supervised by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a "secret court" whose proceedings are classified.
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