Snowden, Edward Joseph,
1983–, American computer systems administrator and antigovernment activist, b. Elizabeth City, N.C. Snowden worked for the Central Intelligence Agency from 2007 and then (2009) for private contractors and for the National Security Agency. He reportedly began downloading classified intelligence documents in 2012, and in late 2012 began contacting reporters, offering to leak the information he had collected. In June, 2013, articles on the NSA's mass surveillance of telecommunications and Internet activity, based on Snowden's leaks, began appearing in the British newspaper the Guardian
and the Washington Post.
Snowden had fled (May) to Hong Kong, and subsequently went to Russia, where he received temporary asylum and later (2014) extended residency; the United States charged him with crimes under the 1917 Espionage Act because of the leaks. Later articles based on documents Snowden leaked have alleged U.S. spying on European and Latin American allies. While regarded by many as a public-minded activist, he has been seen by others as a traitor, and he has lent support to Russian propaganda efforts. His revelations about the activities of the NSA, that it had been conducting surveillance on the whole American population, led to legislation (2015) that imposed restrictions on the NSA's ability to engage in mass surveillance of U.S. telecommunications.
See his autobiography, Permanent Record (2019); G. Greenwald, No Place to Hide (2014) and L. Harding, The Snowden Files (2014).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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