Edward Snowden, full name Edward Joseph Snowden, is a former CIA officer and National Security Agency contractor from the United States. He discovered classified evidence that the United States government was secretly operating a global system of mass surveillance, a practice that contradicted its public statements and violated human rights standards and international law.
Edward Snowden Early Life
Edward Joseph Snowden was born in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, on June 21, 1983. His maternal grandfather, Edward J. Barrett, was a rear admiral in the United States Coast Guard who later became a senior official with the FBI and was present at the Pentagon during the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Snowden’s father, Lonnie, was a Coast Guard warrant officer, and his mother, Elizabeth, worked as a clerk at the United States District Court for the District of Maryland. Jessica, his older sister, worked at the Federal Judicial Center in Washington, D.C. Edward Snowden stated that he, like the rest of his family, expected to work for the federal government. In 2001, his parents divorced, and his father remarried.
Snowden moved to Fort Meade, Maryland, with his family in the early 1990s, while still in elementary school. He was absent from high school for nearly nine months due to mononucleosis. Rather than returning to school, he took the GED and attended Anne Arundel Community College. Snowden had no undergraduate college degree, but in 2011, he worked online toward a master’s degree at the University of Liverpool in England.
He was interested in Japanese popular culture, had studied Japanese, and worked for an anime company with a branch in the United States. He also claimed to know some Mandarin Chinese and to be very interested in martial arts. He listed Buddhism as his religion on a military recruitment form when he was 20, noting that the option of agnostic was “strangely absent.”
Snowden revealed to The Guardian in September 2019, as part of interviews for the release of his memoir Permanent Record, that he married Lindsay Mills in a Moscow courthouse. The couple is expecting a son in December 2020. The couple’s second child was born before September 2022.
Edward Snowden Career
In 2004, Edward Snowden enlisted in the United States Army, volunteering to serve in the Special Forces. He was separated from the Army due to an injury a few months into his training. He began working for the CIA as a computer systems engineer in 2005 and was assigned to the CIA station in Geneva in 2007, where he became concerned about some of the agency’s illegal practices. Following his departure from the CIA, he worked for the US National Security Agency (NSA), Dell, and, finally, the contractor Booz Allen Hamilton.
When he became concerned that the mass surveillance practices he witnessed violated human rights and would if left unchecked, pose an existential threat to democracy, he attempted to raise his concerns within the system, but to no avail. He then worked within the intelligence agency at great risk to directly gather classified evidence revealing illegal and disproportionate surveillance activities by the United States and other governments.
Snowden’s wife and children
Snowden is married to Lindsay Mills, an American performance artist. The couple has been together since Snowden first came to the attention of the United States government. The couple has a child, and after receiving citizenship on Monday, Snowden stated on Twitter: “My wife and I have no desire to be separated from our SONS after years of being separated from our parents. After two years of waiting and nearly ten years in exile, my family will benefit from some stability. I pray for their privacy—and for ours.”
Why did Snowden flee the United States?
Snowden made several claims about the NSA participating in various global surveillance programs with the cooperation of European governments and various telecommunications agencies, raising concerns about private and national security. He was already outside the US when he went public, and he was later welcomed in Russia.
The US government has charged Snowden with theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information, and wilful communication of classified intelligence to an unauthorized person since then.