Edward Joseph Snowden (born June 21, 1983) is an American computer specialist who worked for the CIA and the NSA and leaked details of several top-secret United States and British government mass surveillance programs to the press. Based on information Snowden leaked to The Guardian in May 2013 while employed at NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, the British newspaper published aseries of exposés in 2013 that revealed programs such as the interception of U.S. and European telephone metadata and the PRISM, XKeyscore, and Tempora Internet surveillance programs. Snowden’s disclosures are said to rank among the most significant NSA security breaches in United States history. On June 14, 2013, United States federal prosecutors charged Snowden withespionage and theft of government property. Snowden had left the United States prior to the publication of his disclosures, first to Hong Kong and then to Russia, where he received temporary asylum and now resides in an undisclosed location.
Snowden has been a subject of controversy: he has been variously called a hero, a whistleblower, a dissident, and a traitor. Snowden has defended his leaks as an effort “to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.” Some U.S. officials condemned his actions as having done “grave damage” to the U.S. intelligence capabilities while others, such as former president Jimmy Carter, have applauded his actions.Meanwhile, the media disclosures have renewed debates both inside and outside the United States over mass surveillance, government secrecy, and the balance betweennational security and information privacy. hildhood, family and education
Edward Joseph Snowden was born on June 21, 1983 in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, and grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina. His father, Lonnie Snowden, a resident of Pennsylvania, was an officer in the United States Coast Guard, and his mother, a resident of Baltimore, Maryland, is a clerk at a federal court in Maryland. His parents are divorced, and his father subsequently remarried. By 1999, Snowden had moved with his family to Ellicott City, Maryland,. He studied at Anne Arundel Community College to gain the credits necessary to obtain a high-school diploma but he did not complete the coursework.
 Snowden’s father explained that his son had missed several months of school owing to illness and, rather than return, took and passed the tests for his GED at a local community college. Snowden worked online toward a Master’s Degree at the University of Liverpool in 2011. Having worked at a US military base in Japan, Snowden was reportedly interested in Japanese popular culture, had studied the Japanese language and also worked for an anime company domiciled in the United States. He also said he had a basic understanding of Mandarin and was deeply interested in martial arts and, at age 19 or 20, listed Buddhism as his religion on a military recruitment form, noting that the choice of agnostic was “strangely absent.” Political views
Snowden has said that in the 2008 presidential election he voted for a third-party candidate. He has claimed he had been planning to make disclosures about NSA surveillance programs at the time, but he decided to wait because he “believed in Obama’s promises.” He was later disappointed that Obama “continued with the policies of his predecessor.” For the 2012 election, political donation records indicate that he contributed to the primary campaign of Ron Paul. Several sources have alleged that Snowden, writing under the pseudonym “TheTrueHOOHA,” was the author of hundreds of posts made on technology news provider Ars Technica’s chat rooms. The poster discussed a variety of political topics.
In a January 2009 entry, TheTrueHOOHA exhibited strong support for the United States’ security state apparatus and said he believed leakers of classified information “should be shot in the balls.” However, in February 2010 TheTrueHOOHA wrote, “I wonder, how well would envelopes that became transparent under magical federal candlelight have sold in 1750? 1800? 1850? 1900? 1950?” On June 17, 2013, Snowden’s father spoke in an interview on Fox TV, expressing concern about misinformation in the media regarding his son. He described his son as “a sensitive, caring young man… He just is a deep thinker.” In accounts published in June 2013, interviewers noted that Snowden’s laptop displayed stickers supporting internet freedom organizations including theElectronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Tor Project. Snowden said of himself: “I’m neither traitor nor hero. I’m an American.” Career
On May 7, 2004, Snowden enlisted in the United States Army Reserve as a Special Forces recruit but did not complete any training. He said he wanted to fight in the Iraq War because he “felt like [he] had an obligation as a human being to help free people from oppression.” He was discharged four months later, stating this was the result of breaking both of his legs in a training accident. His next employment was as a National Security Agency (NSA) security guard for the Center for Advanced Study of Language at the University of Maryland, before, he said, joining the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to work on IT security. In May 2006 Snowden wrote in Ars Technica, a technology news and information website, that he had no trouble getting work because he was a “computer wizard.” In August he wrote about a possible path in government service, perhaps involving China, but said it “just doesn’t seem like as much ‘fun’ as some of the other places.” Snowden said that in 2007 the CIA stationed him with diplomatic cover in Geneva, Switzerland, where he was responsible for maintaining computer network security.
 Snowden described his CIA experience in Geneva as “formative”, stating that the CIA deliberately got a Swiss banker drunk and encouraged him to drive home. Snowden said that when the latter was arrested, a CIA operative offered to intervene and later recruited the banker. Swiss President Ueli Maurer said it did not seem likely “that this incident played out as it has been described by Snowden and by the media.” The revelations were said to be sensitive as the Swiss government was passing legislation for more banking transparency. The Guardian reported that Snowden left the CIA in 2009 and began work for a private contractor inside an NSA facility on a US military base in Japan later identified as Dell. Snowden remained on the Dell payroll until early 2013. NSA Director Keith Alexander has said that Snowden held a position at the NSA for the twelve months prior to his next job as a consultant, with top secret Sensitive Compartmented Information clearances.
 According to The New York Times, Snowden took a Certified Ethical Hacker training course in 2010. USIS completed a background check on Snowden in 2011. Snowden described his life as “very comfortable”, earning a salary of “roughly US$200,000.” At the time of his departure from the US in May 2013, he had been working for consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton for less than three months inside the NSA at the Kunia Regional SIGINT Operations Center in Hawaii, employed on a salary of $122,000. While intelligence officials have described his position there as a “system administrator”, Snowden has said he was an “infrastructure analyst”, which meant that his job was to look for new ways to break into Internet and telephone traffic around the world. He said he had taken a pay cut to work at Booz Allen, and that he sought employment in order to gather data on NSA surveillance around the world so he could leak it.
 The firm said Snowden’s employment was terminated on June 10, 2013 “for violations of the firm’s code of ethics and firm policy.” According to Reuters, a source “with detailed knowledge on the matter” stated that Booz Allen’s hiring screeners found some details of his education “did not check out precisely”, but decided to hire him anyway; Reuters stated that the element which triggered these concerns, or the manner in which Snowden satisfied the concerns, were not known. The résumé stated that Snowden attended computer-related classes at Johns Hopkins University. A spokesperson for Johns Hopkins said that the university did not find records to show that Snowden attended the university, and suggested that he may instead have attended Advanced Career Technologies, a private for-profit organization which operated as “Computer Career Institute at Johns Hopkins.
“ The University College of the University of Maryland acknowledged that Snowden had attended a summer session at a UM campus in Asia. Snowden’s resume stated that he estimated that he would receive a University of Liverpool computer security master’s degree in 2013. The university said that Snowden registered for an online master’s degree program in computer security in 2011 but that “he is not active in his studies and has not completed the program.” Before leaving for Hong Kong, Snowden resided in Waipahu, Hawaii, with his girlfriend. According to local real estate agents, they moved out of their home on May 1, 2013, leaving nothing behind. Media disclosures
See also: 2013 mass surveillance disclosures
Snowden first made contact with documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras in January 2013. According to Poitras, Snowden chose to contact her after seeing her report on William Binney, an NSA whistleblower, in The New York Times. She is a board member of the Freedom of the Press Foundation along with Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald, reporting for The Guardian, said he had been working with Snowden since February 2013, and Barton Gellman, writing for The Washington Post, says his first “direct contact” was on May 16, 2013. However, Gellman alleges Greenwald was only involved after the Post declined to guarantee publication of the full documents within 72 hours. Gellman says Snowden was told his organization could not guarantee when or the extent his revelations would be published, and Snowden succinctly declined further cooperation with him. Snowden communicated using encrypted email, using the codename “Verax”. He asked not to be quoted at length for fear of identification by semantic analysis
. According to Gellman, prior to their first meeting in person, Snowden wrote, “I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions, and that the return of this information to the public marks my end.” Snowden also told Gellman that until the articles were published, the journalists working with him would also be at mortal risk from the United States Intelligence Community “if they think you are the single point of failure that could stop this disclosure and make them the sole owner of this information.” In May 2013, Snowden was permitted temporary leave from his position at the NSA in Hawaii, on the pretext of receiving treatment for his epilepsy.
 On May 20, 2013, Snowden flew to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China, where he was staying when the initial articles about the NSA that he had leaked were published. Among other specifics, Snowden divulged the existence and functions of several classified US surveillance programs and their scope, including notably PRISM (surveillance program), NSA call database, Boundless Informant. He also revealed details of Tempora, a British black-ops surveillance program run by the NSA’s British partner, GCHQ. In July 2013, Greenwald stated that Snowden had additional sensitive information about the NSA that he has chosen not to make public, including “very sensitive, detailed blueprints of how the NSA does what they do”. Motivations
Snowden’s identity was made public by The Guardian at his request on June 9, 2013. He explained: “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong.” He added that by revealing his identity he hoped to protect his colleagues from being subjected to a hunt to determine who had been responsible for the leaks. Snowden explained his actions saying: “I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things [surveillance on its citizens]… I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded… My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.”
 When Snowden met with representatives of human rights organizations on July 12, he said: The 4th and 5th Amendments to the Constitution of my country, Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and numerous statutes and treaties forbid such systems of massive, pervasive surveillance. While the US Constitution marks these programs as illegal, my government argues that secret court rulings, which the world is not permitted to see, somehow legitimize an illegal affair…. I believe in the principle declared at Nuremberg in 1945: “Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience. Therefore individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring.” Flight from the U.S.
Snowden left Hawaii for Hong Kong alone on May 20, 2013. He traveled on to Moscow on Sunday, June 23, 2013, as Hong Kong authorities were deliberating the US government’s request for his extradition. Hong Kong
Snowden explained his choice of Hong Kong thus:
NSA employees must declare their foreign travel 30 days in advance and are monitored. There was a distinct possibility I would be interdicted en route, so I had to travel with no advance booking to a country with the cultural and legal framework to allow me to work without being immediately detained. Hong Kong provided that. Iceland could be pushed harder, quicker, before the public could have a chance to make their feelings known, and I would not put that past the current US administration. Snowden said that he was predisposed “to seek asylum in a country with shared values”, and that his ideal choice would be Iceland. The International Modern Media Institute, an Icelandic freedom of speech advocacy organization, issued a statement offering Snowden legal advice and assistance in gaining asylum.
 Iceland’s ambassador to China, Kristin A. Arnadottir, pointed out that asylum could not be granted to Snowden, because Icelandic law requires that such applications be made from within the country. Snowden vowed to challenge any extradition attempt by the US government, and had reportedly approached Hong Kong human rights lawyers. In an interview with the South China Morning Post, Snowden said that he planned to remain in Hong Kong until “asked to leave.” He added that his intention was to let the “courts and people of Hong Kong” decide his fate. As speculation mounted that Snowden’s departure from Hong Kong was imminent, media reports emerged that the British government warned airlines that Snowden was not welcome in the United Kingdom.
On June 20 and 21, a representative ofWikiLeaks said that a chartered jet had been prepared to transport Snowden to Iceland, and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assangeannounced that he was brokering a discussion between Snowden and the Icelandic government for possible asylum. On June 23, US officials said that Snowden’s US passport had been revoked. On the same day, Snowden boarded the commercial Aeroflot flight SU213 from Hong Kong to Moscow, accompanied by Sarah Harrison of WikiLeaks. Hong Kong authorities said that Snowden had not been detained as requested by the United States, because the United States’ extradition request had not fully complied with Hong Kong law, and there was no legal basis to prevent Snowden from leaving.[Notes 1] On June 24, Julian Assange said that WikiLeaks had paid for Snowden’s lodging in Hong Kong and his flight out.
Ecuador embassy car in front ofSheremetyevo Airport in Moscow on June 23, 2013. Snowden’s passage through Hong Kong inspired a local production team to produce a low-budget five-minute film entitled Verax. The film, depicting the time Snowden spent hiding in the Mira Hotel while being unsuccessfully tracked by the CIA and China’s Ministry of State Security, was uploaded to YouTube on June 25, 2013. Russia
On Sunday, June 23, 2013, Snowden landed in one of Moscow’s international airports,Sheremetyevo. Ecuador’s foreign minister, Ricardo Patiño, announced that Snowden had requested asylum in Ecuador. The United States has an extradition treaty with Ecuador, but it contains a political offense exception under which Ecuador can deny extradition if it determines that Snowden is being prosecuted for political reasons. Morales plane incident
Red marked nations (Spain, France and Italy) denied permission to cross their airspace. Plane landed in Austria (yellow). On July 1, 2013, president Evo Morales of Bolivia, who had been attending aconference of gas-exporting countries in Russia, appeared predisposed to offer asylum to Snowden during an interview with Russia Today. The following day, the airplane carrying him back to Bolivia from Russia was rerouted to Austria when France, Spain and Italy denied access to their airspace due to suspicions that Snowden was on board. Upon landing in Vienna, the presidential plane was reportedly searched by Austrian officials, although the Bolivian Defense Minister denied a search took place, saying Morales had denied entry to his plane.
The refusals for entry into French, Spanish and Italian airspace ostensibly for “technical reasons”, strongly denounced by Bolivia, Ecuador and other South American nations, were attributed to rumors perpetuated allegedly by the US that Snowden was on board. Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, José García-Margallo, publicly stated that they were told he was on board but did not specify as to who had informed them. Austrian media later claimed the rumor originated with the US ambassador to Austria. France apologized for the incident the day after the plane was grounded. The Spanish ambassador to Bolivia apologized two weeks later, saying that “the procedure was not appropriate”. Asylum applications
On July 1, 2013, Snowden had applied for political asylum to 20 countries. A statement attributed to Snowden also contended that the U.S. administration, and specifically Vice President Joe Biden, had pressured the governments of these countries to refuse his petition for asylum. Several days later, Snowden made a second batch of applications for asylum to 6 countries, but declined to name them citing prior interference by US officials. Finland, Germany, India, Poland, Norway, Austria, Italy, and the Netherlands cited technical grounds for not considering the application, saying that applications for asylum to these countries must be made from within the countries’ borders or at border stations. Ecuador had initially offered Snowden a temporary travel document but later withdrew it: on July 1, president Rafael Correa said the decision to issue the offer had been “a mistake.”
On June 25 and July 15, Russian president Vladimir Putin said that Snowden’s arrival in Moscow was “a surprise” and “like an unwanted Christmas gift”. Putin said that Snowden remained in the transit area of Sheremetyevo, noted that he had not committed any crime on Russian soil, and declared that Snowden was free to leave and should do so. He also claimed that Russia’s intelligence agencies neither “had worked, nor were working with” Snowden. Putin’s claims were received skeptically by some observers: one Moscow political analyst said “Snowden will fly out of Russia when the Kremlin decides he can go” and in July Yulia Latynina expressed her view that Snowden was under the “total control” of Russia’s security services. According to the Jamestown Foundation, an anonymous source informed them in early July that Snowden was not, in fact, residing at the airport but at a safe house controlled by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB).
 Correa of Ecuador said that Snowden was “under care” of Russia and could not leave Moscow. On July 1, 2013 Putin said that if Snowden wanted to be granted asylum in Russia, Snowden would have to “stop his work aimed at harming our American partners.” A spokesman for Putin subsequently said that Snowden had withdrawn his asylum application upon learning about the conditions. On July 12, in a meeting at Sheremetyevo Airport with representatives of human rights organizations and lawyers that the Kremlin helped organize, Snowden stated that he was accepting all offers of asylum that he had already received or that he would receive in the future, noting that his Venezuela’s “asylee status was now formal”, he also said he would request asylum in Russia until he resolved his travel problems. On July 16, 2013, Russian Federal Migration Service officials confirmed that Snowden had submitted an application for temporary asylum in Russia. Anatoly Kucherena, Snowden’s lawyer, head of Russia’s Interior ministry’s public council and member of the public council for the FSB, said Snowden had stated in the application that he faced possible torture and execution if he returned to the US.
 According to Kucherena, Snowden had also stated that he would meet Putin’s condition for granting asylum and would not further harm US interests. On July 23 Kucherena said his client intended to settle in Russia. Amid media reports in early July 2013 attributed to US administration sources that Obama’s one-on-one meeting with Putin, ahead of a G20 meeting in St Petersburg scheduled for September, was in doubt due to Snowden’s protracted sojourn in Russia, top US officials repeatedly made it clear to Moscow that Snowden should without delay be returned to the United States to face justice. In a letter to Russian Minister of Justice Alexander Konovalov dated July 23, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder sought to eliminate the “asserted grounds for Mr. Snowden’s claim that he should be treated as a refugee or granted asylum, temporary or otherwise”: he assured the Russian government that the U.S. would not seek the death penalty for Snowden irrespective of the charges he might eventually face and said Snowden would be issued a limited validity passport for returning to the U.S., and that upon his return, Snowden would benefit from legal and constitutional safeguards and not be tortured, as “torture is unlawful in the United States”.
 The same day, the Russian president’s spokesman reiterated the Kremlin’s position that it would “not hand anyone over”; he also noted that Putin was not personally involved in the matter as Snowden “had not made any request that would require examination by the head of state”; according to him the issue was being handled through talks between the FSB and the FBI. In late July 2013, Lon Snowden expressed a belief that his son would be better off staying in Russia, saying he was no longer confident his son would receive a fair trial in the United States, and that Russia was probably the best place to seek asylum. The elder Snowden said that the FBI had offered to fly him to Russia on their behalf. Lon declined the offer citing a lack of assurance that he would see his son, and adding that he didn’t wish to be used as “an emotional tool.” Temporary asylum in Russia
On August 1, 2013, Snowden left the airport after being granted temporary asylum in Russia for one year. Snowden’s attorney, Anatoly Kucherena, said the asylum could be extended indefinitely on an annual basis, and that Snowden had gone to an undisclosed location which would be kept secret for security reasons. In response to the temporary asylum, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the U.S. administration was “extremely disappointed” by the Russian government’s decision and that the meeting scheduled for September between Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin was under reconsideration. Some U.S. legislators urged the president to take a tough stand against Russia, possibly including a U.S. boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. On August 7, 2013, the White House announced that Obama had canceled the meeting previously planned with Putin in Moscow citing lack of progress on a series of issues that included Russia’s granting Snowden temporary asylum.
 Following cancellation of the bilateral talks, Putin’s foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov said they were “disappointed” and that it was clear to him that the decision was due to the situation around Snowden, which they “had not created”; Ushakov alleged that the U.S. had been avoiding signing an extradition agreement and had “invariably” used its absence as a pretext for denying Russian extradition requests.Richard Falk, professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University, noted that Russia was obligated by law to offer asylum. Reactions
See also: PRISM#Responses to disclosures
United States of America
The U.S. Director of National Intelligence, James R. Clapper, described the disclosure of PRISM as “reckless”. The NSA formally requested that the Department of Justice launch a criminal investigation into Snowden’s actions. On June 14, 2013, US federal prosecutors filed a sealed complaint, made public on June 21, charging Snowden with theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information, and willful communication of classified intelligence to an unauthorized person; the latter two allegations are under the Espionage Act. In June 2013, the U.S. military blocked access to parts of the Guardian website related to government surveillance programs for thousands of defense personnel across the country, and to the entire Guardian website for personnel stationed in Afghanistan, the Middle East, and South Asia. A spokesperson described the filtering as a routine “network hygiene” measure intended to mitigate unauthorized disclosures of classified information onto the Department of Defense’s unclassified networks.
 On August 8, 2013, Lavabit, a Texas-based secure email service provider reportedly used by Snowden, abruptly announced it was shutting down operations after nearly 10 years of business. The owner posted a statement online saying he would rather go out of business than “become complicit in crimes against the American people.” He also said that he was barred by law from disclosing what he had experienced over the preceding 6 weeks and that he was appealing the case in the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Multiple sources speculated that the timing of the statement suggested that Lavabit had been targeted by the U.S. government in its pursuit of information about Snowden.
Reactions to Snowden’s disclosures among members of Congress were largely negative. Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senators Dianne Feinstein and Bill Nelson called Snowden a traitor, and several senators and representatives joined them in calling for Snowden’s arrest and prosecution. Representative Thomas Massie was one of few members of Congress to question the constitutional validity of the government surveillance programs and suggest that Snowden should be granted immunity from prosecution. Senators Ted Cruz andRand Paul offered tentative support for Snowden, saying they were reserving judgment on Snowden until more information about the surveillance programs and about Snowden’s motives were known. Senator Paul said, “I do think when history looks at this, they are going to contrast the behavior of James Clapper, our National Intelligence Director, with Edward Snowden. Mr. Clapper lied in Congress in defiance of the law, in the name of security. Mr. Snowden told the truth in the name of privacy.
“Paul later called Snowden a “civil disobedient” and compared him with Martin Luther King Jr. Representative John Lewis made comparisons between Snowden and Gandhi, saying the leaker was appealing to a “higher law”. On July 25, the US Senate Committee on Appropriations unanimously adopted an amendment by Senator Lindsey Graham to the “Fiscal Year 2014 Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Bill” that would seek sanctions against any country that offers asylum to Snowden. In response to the information release by Snowden, Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) proposed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to curtail the NSA gathering and storage of the personal records, but the House rejected it by a narrow margin of 205–217.
Polls conducted by news organisations following Snowden’s disclosures about government surveillance programs to the press indicated that American public opinion on Snowden’s actions was divided. A Gallup poll conducted June 10–11, 2013 showed 44 percent of Americans thought it was right for Snowden to share the information with the press while 42 percent thought it was wrong. A USA Today/Pew Research poll conducted June 12–16 found that 49 percent thought the release of information served the public interest while 44 percent thought it harmed it. The same poll found that 54 percent felt a criminal case should be brought against Snowden, while 38 percent thought one should not be brought, while a Washington Post/ABC News poll conducted between the same dates as the Pew poll cited 43 percent of respondents saying Snowden ought to be charged with a crime, while 48 percent said he ought not. Another poll in early July found 38 percent of Americans thought he did the wrong thing, 33 percent said he did the right thing, and 29 percent were unsure. A WSJ/NBC poll conducted July 17–21 found that 11% of Americans viewed Snowden positively while 34% had a negative view.
 A Quinnipiac University Polling Institute poll conducted June 28 – July 8 found that in the wake of Snowden’s disclosures, more Americans said that government goes too far in restricting civil liberties as part of the war on terrorism (45 percent) than said that government does not go far enough to adequately protect the country (40 percent). That finding was evidence of a massive swing in public opinion since an earlier Quinnipiac poll, conducted in 2010, when only 25 percent of respondents had said government goes too far in restricting civil liberties while 63 percent had said government does not go far enough. The same poll found that 55 percent of Americans regarded Snowden as a whistleblower while 34 percent saw him as a traitor. Quinnipiac showed that a majority of Americans, by a wide margin, still regarded Snowden as a whistleblower rather than a traitor when it repeated the poll July 31 – August 1.
 Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who received the leaked documents, praised Snowden for having done a service by revealing the surveillance on the American public. John Cassidy, also of The New Yorker, called Snowden “a hero”, and said that “in revealing the colossal scale of the US government’s eavesdropping on Americans and other people around the world, [Snowden] has performed a great public service that more than outweighs any breach of trust he may have committed.” CNN columnistDouglas Rushkoff also called Snowden’s leak an act of heroism. Amy Davidson, writing in The New Yorker, was thankful for the “overdue” conversation on privacy and the limits of domestic surveillance. Political commentators and public figures such as Noam Chomsky, Chris Hedges, Michael Moore, Cornel West,Glenn Beck, Matt Drudge, Alex Jones, Andrew Napolitano, Oliver Stone, Michael Savage, and Stephen Walt praised Snowden for exposing secret government surveillance.
Other commentators were more critical of Snowden’s methods and motivations. Jeffrey Toobin, for example, denounced Snowden as “a grandiose narcissist who deserves to be in prison.” Writing in the The New Yorker, Toobin argued: Any government employee or contractor is warned repeatedly that the unauthorized disclosure of classified information is a crime…. These were legally authorized programs; in the case of Verizon Business’s phone records, Snowden certainly knew this, because he leaked the very court order that approved the continuation of the project. So he wasn’t blowing the whistle on anything illegal; he was exposing something that failed to meet his own standards of propriety. The question, of course, is whether the government can function when all of its employees (and contractors) can take it upon themselves to sabotage the programs they don’t like.
That’s what Snowden has done. Stewart Baker, a former NSA general counsel in the early 1990s, said at a July 18, 2013 hearing, “I am afraid that hyped and distorted press reports orchestrated by Edward Snowden and his allies may cause us – or other nations – to construct new restraints on our intelligence gathering, restraints that will leave us vulnerable to another security disaster.” Former CIA and NSA chief General Michael Hayden welcomed the debate about the balance between privacy and security that the leaks have provoked.
He said “I am convinced the more the American people know exactly what it is we are doing in this balance between privacy and security, the more they know the more comfortable they will feel.” Some former U.S. intelligence officials speculated that Chinese or Russian intelligence agents might have gleaned additional classified material from Snowden, a view shared by some former Russian agents  Snowden, however, told Greenwald in July that “I never gave any information to either government, and they never took anything from my laptops.” Former US President Jimmy Carter said: “He’s obviously violated the laws of America, for which he’s responsible, but I think the invasion of human rights and American privacy has gone too far … I think that the secrecy that has been surrounding this invasion of privacy has been excessive, so I think that the bringing of it to the public notice has probably been, in the long term, beneficial.”
The petition to pardon Snowden at the White House website
The editors of Bloomberg News argued that, while the government ought to prosecute Snowden, the media’s focus on Snowden took attention away from issues of U.S. government surveillance, the interpretations of the Patriot Act, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court actions, all of which are “what really matters in all this.” Greenwald accused the media in the U.S. of focusing on Edward Snowden instead of on wrongdoing by Clapper and other U.S. officials. In an op-ed, author Alex Berenson argued that the federal government should have flown a representative to Hong Kong to ask Snowden to give testimony in front of the U.S. Congress and offer him a fair criminal trial, with a view to preventing further unintended disclosures of classified information to other countries. A We the People petition launched on whitehouse.gov on June 9 to seek “a full, free, and absolute pardon for any crimes [Snowden] has committed or may have committed related to blowing the whistle on secret NSA surveillance programs” attained 100,000 signatures within two weeks. Europe
British Foreign Minister William Hague admitted that Britain’s GCHQ was also spying and collaborating with the NSA, and defended the two agencies’ actions as “indispensable.” Meanwhile, UK Defence officials issued a confidential DA-Notice to British media asking for restraint in running further stories related to surveillance leaks including the PRISM programme and the British involvement therein. European governments reacted angrily, with German and French leaders Angela Merkel and François Hollande branding the spying as ‘unacceptable’ and insisting the NSA stop immediately, while the European Union Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding sent Washington an official list of questions and demanded an explanation.
European diplomats feared that upcoming EU–US trade talks would be overshadowed by the disclosures. Documents from Snowden show that cooperation between Berlin and Washington in the area of digital surveillance and defense intensified considerably during time of Chancellor Merkel. The Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), the foreign intelligence agency of Germany, is directly subordinated to the Chancellor’s Office. Although Merkel denied knowing about surveillance, Germans take the claims seriously. According to Hansjörg Geiger, former head of the BND, findings/claims are Orwellian and mutual political and economic espionage would be explicitly forbidden. Public
Demonstration against PRISM in Berlin, Germany
An opinion poll carried out by Emnid at the end of June revealed that 50% of Germans consider Snowden a hero, and 35% would hide him in their homes. Jürgen Trittin a German Green politician wrote in The Guardian Europe on July 2, 2013 “Edward Snowden has done us all a great service. The man who revealed that our US and UK allies are spying on us ought to be given refuge by an EU country. […] If ever a case demonstrated why we need the protection of whistleblowers, this is it.
“ Non-government organizations
Navi Pillay, the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights, said: “Without prejudging the validity of any asylum claim by Snowden, I appeal to all States to respect the internationally guaranteed right to seek asylum.” After Amnesty International met Edward Snowden in Moscow in mid July 2013, the organization said: “What he has disclosed is patently in the public interest and as a whistleblower his actions were justified. He has exposed unlawful sweeping surveillance programmes that unquestionably interfere with an individual’s right to privacy. States that attempt to stop a person from revealing such unlawful behaviour are flouting international law. Freedom of expression is a fundamental right.” Widney Brown, Senior Director of Amnesty, feared that Snowden would be at “great risk” of human rights violations if forcibly transferred to the United States, and urged no country to return Snowden to the US. Michael Bochenek, Director of Law and Policy at Amnesty International deplored the US pressure on governments to block Snowden’s asylum attempts, saying “It is his unassailable right, enshrined in international law”.
 Human Rights Watch said that if Snowden were able to raise the issue of NSA mass surveillance without facing espionage charges, he would not have left the United States in the first place. Human Rights Watch writes that any country where Snowden seeks asylum should consider his claim fairly and protect his rights under international law, which recognizes that revealing official secrets is sometimes justified in the public interest. Index on Censorship condemned the U.S. government for its “mass surveillance of citizens’ private communications” and urged all government officials to uphold the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. A statement released by Index on Censorship said: “Whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden — as well as journalists reporting on the Prism scandal, who have come under fire — should be protected under the first amendment, not criminalised.
“ Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said: “Snowden’s case has shown the need to protect persons disclosing information on matters that have implications for human rights, as well as the importance of ensuring respect for the right to privacy”. Transparency International, International Association of Lawyers against Nuclear Arms and Vereinigung Deutscher Wissenschaftler awarded Snowden the German Whistleblowerpreis 2013. Humanist Union awarded him the Fritz Bauer Prize2013. China and Hong Kong
The South China Morning Post published a poll of Hong Kong residents conducted while Snowden was still in Hong Kong that showed that half of the 509 respondents believed the Chinese government should not surrender Snowden to the United States if Washington raises such a request; 33 percent of those polled think of Snowden as a hero, 12.8 percent described him as a traitor, 23 percent described him as “something in between.”
Hong Kong demonstration at US Consulate on June 15 in support of Snowden
Referring to Snowden’s presence in the territory, Hong Kong chief executive CY Leung assured that the government would “handle the case of Mr Snowden in accordance with the laws and established procedures of Hong Kong [and] follow up on any incidents related to the privacy or other rights of the institutions or people in Hong Kong being violated.” Pan-democratlegislators Gary Fan and Claudia Mo said that the perceived U.S. prosecution against Snowden will set “a dangerous precedent and will likely be used to justify similar actions” by authoritarian governments. During Snowden’s stay, the two main political groups, the pan-democrats and Pro-Beijing camp, found rare agreement to support Snowden. The DAB[clarification needed]even organised a separate march to Government headquarters for Snowden. The People’s Daily and the Global Times editorials of June 19 stated respectively that the central Chinese government was unwilling to be involved in a “mess” caused by others, and that the Hong Kong government should follow the public opinion and not concern itself with Sino-US relations.
 A Tsinghua University communications studies specialist, Liu Jianming, interpreted that the two articles as suggesting that the PRC[clarification needed] government did not want further involvement in the case and that the HKSAR[clarification needed] government should handle it independently. After Snowden left Hong Kong, Chinese-language newspapers such as the Ming Pao and the Oriental Daily expressed relief that Hong Kong no longer had to shoulder the burden of the Snowden situation.
 Mainland experts said that, although the Central Government did not want to appear to be intervening in the matter, it was inconceivable that the Hong Kong government acted independently in a matter that could have far-reaching consequences for Sino-US relations. One expert suggested that, by doing so, China had “returned the favor” for their not having accepted the asylum plea from Wang Lijun in February 2012. The official Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece, the People’s Daily denied the US government accusation that the PRC central government had allowed Snowden to escape, and said that Snowden helped in “tearing off Washington’s sanctimonious mask.” South America
Robert Menendez, chairman of the United States foreign relations panel, warned Ecuador that accepting Snowden “would severely jeopardize” preferential trade access the United States provides to Ecuador. Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa responded by abdicating US trade benefits. A government spokesman said that Ecuador would offer the US “economic aid of US$23 million annually, similar to what we received with the trade benefits, with the intention of providing education about human rights.
“ Correa criticized the US media for centering its focus on Snowden and countries supporting him, instead of focusing on the global and domestic privacy issues implicated in the leaked documents. After Bolivian president Morales’ plane was denied access to Spanish, French, and Italian airspace during a return flight from Moscow, the presidents of Uruguay, Argentina, Venezuela and Suriname joined Correa and a representative from Brazil, inCochabamba, Bolivia to discuss the incident. Presidents Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela and Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua offered Snowden asylum after the meeting.
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that “the Snowden case is something I consider to be misuse” and that digital communications should not be “misused in such a way as Snowden did.” Birgitta Jónsdóttir, an Icelandic legislator, criticized Ban for expressing a personal view while speaking in an official capacity. She said that Ban “seemed entirely unconcerned about the invasion of privacy by governments around the world, and only concerned about how whistleblowers are misusing the system.” Other countries
Russia, Turkey and South Africa reacted angrily after it was revealed that their diplomats had been spied on during the 2009 G-20 London summit. Whistleblowers Daniel Ellsberg, the whistleblower and leaker of the top-secret Pentagon Papers in 1971, stated in an interview with CNN that he thought Snowden had done an “incalculable” service to his country and that his leaks might prevent the United States from becoming a surveillance state. He said Snowden had acted with the same sort of courage and patriotism as a soldier in battle. In an op-ed the following morning, Ellsberg added that “there has not been in American history a more important leak than Edward Snowden’s release of NSA material … including the Pentagon Papers.
“ Ray McGovern, a retired CIA officer turned political activist, agreed with Ellsberg and added, “This time today I’m feeling much more hopeful for our democracy than I was feeling this time yesterday.” William Binney, a whistleblower who disclosed details of the NSA’s mass surveillance activities, said that Snowden had “performed a really great public service to begin with by exposing these programs and making the government in a sense publicly accountable for what they’re doing.
” However, after Snowden cited a conversation with a “reliable source” about allegations that the US was “hacking into China”, Binney felt he was “transitioning from whistle-blower to a traitor.” Thomas Drake, former senior executive of NSA and whistleblower, said that he feels “extraordinary kinship” with Snowden. “What he did was a magnificent act of civil disobedience. He’s exposing the inner workings of the surveillance state. And it’s in the public interest.
It truly is.” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange hailed Snowden as a “hero” who has exposed “one of the most serious events of the decade – the creeping formulation of a mass surveillance state.” After charges against Snowden were revealed, Assange released a statement asking people to “step forward and stand with” Snowden. Shamai Leibowitz, who leaked details about an FBI operation, said that the legal threats and “smear campaign” against Snowden are a “grave mistake” because “If the government really wanted to keep more secrets from coming out, they would do well to let this man of conscience go live his life in some other country.” See also
•Classified information in the United States
•Terrorist Surveillance Program
•NSA warrantless surveillance (2001–07)
•NSA whistleblowers: William Binney, Thomas Andrews Drake, Mark Klein, Thomas Tamm, Russ Tice •Stellar Wind (code name)
•List of United States extradition treaties
•Martin and Mitchell defection
•List of people granted asylum
•List of people who have lived at airports
1.^ Hong Kong’s Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen argued that government officials did not issue a provisional arrest warrant for Snowden due to “discrepancies and missing information” in the paperwork sent by U.S. authorities. Yuen explained that Snowden full name was inconsistent, and his U.S. passport number was also missing. Hong Kong also wanted more details of the charges and evidence against Snowden to make sure it was not a political case. Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen said he spoke to US Attorney General Eric Holder by phone to reinforce the request for details “absolutely necessary” for detention of Snowden. Yuen said “As the US government had failed to provide the information by the time Snowden left Hong Kong, it was impossible for the Department of Justice to apply to a court for a temporary warrant of arrest. In fact, even at this time, the US government has still not provided the details we asked for.”