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The highly classified leaking Odyssey of Edward Snowden

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The highly classified leaking Odyssey of Edward Snowden


When we look back at 2013 to consider candidates for Person of the Year, Edward Joseph Snowden is likely to be among the leading candidates.

The 30-year-old systems administrator played a crucial role in the disclosure of the mass surveillance program used by the American government, a fact that has made him persona non grata in his homeland.

One thing at a time

The web of revelations began to unfold on June 5, when British newspaper The Guardian released a top secret order of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) that ordered a business division of Verizon Communications to provide “on a daily basis” metadata for all telephone calls “ within the US, including local telephone calls” and all calls made “between the US and abroad.” Information was provided by Snowden, who had contacted The Guardian’s reporter Glenn Greenwald using encrypted email, under the codename “Verax” (truth-teller in Latin).

On June 6, both The Guardian and American newspaper The Washington Post revealed the existence of PRISM, an electronic surveillance program that allegedly allows the National security Agency (NSA) to access e-mail, web searches, and other Internet data. A document included in the leak indicated that PRISM was “the number one source of raw intelligence used for NSA analytic reports.” PRISM has been operated by the NSA since 2007. US government officials dispute certain aspects of the media stories. They have also defended the program, stating it cannot be used on domestic targets without a warrant.

Three days later, on June 9, Snowden’s identity as the person behind the leaks was made public by The Guardian at his request. Snowden characterised the leaks as an effort “to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.” He also stated that he had “no intention of hiding… because I know I have done nothing wrong.”

On June 14, US federal prosecutors filed a sealed complaint charging Snowden with theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information, and willful communication of classified intelligence to an unauthorized person.

One week later, on June 21, The Guardian made disclosures about Tempora, an operation to intercept and store mass quantities of fibre-optic traffic run by British Government Communications Headquarters. Tempora was trialed in 2008 and implemented in 2011.

On June 29, Germany’s Der Spiegel reported that the NSA had planted bugs in EU offices in Washington, New York, and Brussels, and had infiltrated their computer networks, according to documents provided by Snowden.

Hide and seek

Snowden left the United States on May 20. He first reached Hong Kong and then traveled from there to Moscow on June 23.

But why did Snowden travel to Hong Kong in the first place?

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. Snowden explained.

On June 23, US officials stated that Snowden’s US passport had been revoked. On the same day, Snowden travelled 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 extradition request had not fully complied with the country’s legislative framework.

On June 24, WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange told reporters that his international non-profit organization, which publishes secret information and classified media from anonymous sources, had paid for Snowden’s lodging in Hong Kong as well as for his flight out. Snowden was “bound for Ecuador,” via Russia, according to Assange.

At the same time, Ecuador’s foreign minister, Ricardo Patiño, announced that Snowden had requested asylum in the Latin American country. The US have an extradition treaty with Ecuador, which contains a political offense exception under which Ecuador can deny extradition if it determines that Edward Snowden is being prosecuted for political reasons.

On June 25, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the country’s special services “never worked with Mr. Snowden and aren’t working with him today”. As for the 30-year-old American, Putin declared that he is a “free man, and the sooner he chooses his final destination the better it is for us and for him”.

On June 30, Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa stated that Snowden is “under care” of Russia and can’t leave Moscow.

On July 2 whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks revealed that Snowden had applied to 21 countries seeking asylum. Most showed little interest or sympathy, with the exception of some left-wing South American states.

Who will grant Snowden asylum?

AustriaNO Says it can only grant asylum if request is made when on Austrian territory
BoliviaPOSSIBLY Bolivia say it did not receive Snowden’s application but president said he would consider granting him asylum.
BrazilNO Officials have announced they will not grant his request, they will leave it unanswered.
China – ? Officials say they have no information on Snowden’s request
Cuba – ?
EcuadorNO The president has said Ecuador is not considering the request, as it was made outside Ecuadorean territory
FinlandNO Says it can only grant asylum if request is made when on Finnish territory
FranceNO France has officially rejected Snowden’s request.
GermanyNO After studying the “legal viability” of the request they rejected the application
Iceland – ?

IndiaNO India’s foreign ministry says it “sees no reason to accept” Snowden’s request
ItalyNO Italy has officially rejected Snowden’s request.
IrelandNO Says legally impossible as Snowden is not on Irish territory
NetherlandsUNLIKELY. Says it can only grant asylum if request is made when on Dutch territory
Nicaragua – ?
Norway UNLIKELY. Says it can only grant asylum if request is made when on Norwegian territory
PolandNO Request rejected
RussiaNO Snowden withdrew the request himself
SpainNO Says legally impossible as Snowden is not on Spanish territory
SwitzerlandUNLIKELY. Says it has not yet received an asylum request and that it can only grant asylum if request is made on Swiss territory.
VenezuelaPOSSIBLY. President Maduro says Snowden “needs the world’s protection:”

On the night of July 2 a plane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales was forced to land in Vienna after France and Portugal closed their airspace to the aircraft amid unfounded suspicions Snowden was on board. This incident provoked intense diplomatic anger between Bolivia and its regional allies and the US and EU.

Who is Edward Snowden?

Edward Joseph Snowden was born on June 21, 1983. He studied computing and was enlisted in the United States Army as a Special Forces recruit in May 2004.

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. Later on, he joined the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to work on IT security.

In 2007, the CIA stationed Snowden with diplomatic cover in Geneva, Switzerland. He was responsible for maintaining computer network security, according to his statement.

In May 2013, before he fled the US, he was working for consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton as a system administrator inside the NSA at the Kunia Regional SIGINT Operations Center in Hawaii.

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