Edward Joseph Snowden (born June 21, 1983) is an American computer professional, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee, and former contractor for the United States government who copied and leaked classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA) in 2013 without authorization. His disclosures revealed numerous global surveillance programs, many run by the NSA and the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance with the cooperation of telecommunication companies and European governments.
In 2013, Snowden was hired by an NSA contractor, Booz Allen Hamilton, after previous employment with Dell and the CIA. On May 20, 2013, Snowden flew to Hong Kong after leaving his job at an NSA facility in Hawaii, and in early June he revealed thousands of classified NSA documents to journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Ewen MacAskill. Snowden came to international attention after stories based on the material appeared in The Guardian and The Washington Post. Further disclosures were made by other publications including Der Spiegel and The New York Times.
On June 21, 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice unsealed charges against Snowden of two counts of violating the Espionage Act of 1917 and theft of government property following which the Department of State revoked his passport. Two days later, he flew into Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, but Russian authorities noted that his U.S. passport had been cancelled and he was restricted to the airport terminal for over one month. Russia ultimately granted him right of asylum for one year, and repeated extensions have permitted him to stay at least until 2020. In early 2016, he became the president of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, an organization that aims to protect journalists from hacking and government surveillance. As of 2017 he was living in an undisclosed location in Moscow and continuing to seek asylum elsewhere in the world.
A subject of controversy, Snowden has been variously called a hero, a whistleblower, a dissident, a traitor, and a patriot. His disclosures have fueled debates over mass surveillance, government secrecy, and the balance between national security and information privacy.