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Edward Snowden: Who He Is & What He Did


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Computer Analysist to Whistleblower; former NSA employee Edward Snowden is wanted by the US government for espionage after providing top-secret information to a British newspaper.

Edward SnowdenWhat did he leak?

Information about two programmes known as PRISM and TEMPORA have been leaked by Snowden after a “crisis of conscience”.

PRISM accesses data held by the world’s major internet companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple, detailing online activity including the contents of emails and instant messaging. However, the companies deny any knowledge of the programme. As the majority of internet sites used by UK nationals are US based, the National Security Agency can intercept this information.

The UK’s Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ) has hacked into over 200 fibre optic cables to gain access to phone conversations, emails and social networking sites. The information is also accessible by the NSA; where over 850,000 contractors have had access.

It is thought that the agencies are working closely so that national privacy laws can be bypassed.

The projects violate the 4th Amendment of the Bill of Rights which states that the people have a right to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizes, however, both of the projects are claimed by the intelligence agencies to be warranted and legal against the fight against terrorism.

What did Edward Snowden do?

Snowden gave up his comfortable life in Hawaii where he earned roughly $200,000 a year to become a whistleblower and make the public aware of the US governments’ actions.

He was working for the National Security Agency (NSA) as an Infrastructure Analyst and Defence Contractor for Booz Allen Hamilton, meaning he had access to top secret information and missions. He describes himself as an ordinary guy in an office constantly faced with ‘disturbing information’.

“Bathtub falls and police officers kill more Americans than terrorism, yet we've been asked to sacrifice our most sacred rights for fear of falling victim to it”.

On releasing the information Snowden asked to be named as he felt the public were ‘owed an explanation’ and the lack of anonymity makes it harder for the government to move against him.

The Situation

Of the 21 countries where Snowden has sought asylum, 12 including Germany and Poland have denied him. After landing in Russia, he wasn’t allowed into the country (until he stops ‘harming US intentions’) but has been permitted to stay in the airport until he could find refuge.

His passport has since been revoked, leaving him without a state or country and as quoted from a statement he released on Wikileaks on the 1st July, “Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right. A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum”.

It has also been reported that the Obama has requested that foreign governments deny Snowden access.

However, Bolivia and Venezuela are thought to be two of the most likely destinations after he was refused entry to Russia. This resulted in the plane hosting Bolivian president Evo Morales being diverted after France and Portugal denied it airspace, as it was suspected to contain Snowden. However as it turned out the whistleblower was not on board.  

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