Would today’s whistle blowers be included in the Bible if it were to have chapters written in our times? Our Justice Department has filed three felony charges for disclosing secrets under the Espionage Act against Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor, who is now in Russia under a temporary grant of asylum. President Obama asserts that because of Snowden’s disclosure of “classified information …we will not be able to keep our people safe, or conduct foreign policy” and that these “leaks revealed methods to our adversaries that could impact our operations in ways that we may not fully understand for years to come.” (http://www.politico.com/story/2014/01/barack-obama-edward-snowden-nsa-le…)
How did Edward Snowden come to where he is today? What was it in his boyhood and education that motivated him to become an enemy of his country? There is nothing to explain that in his early years: born 1983 in North Carolina, growing up in Baltimore where his mother worked as chief deputy clerk for administration and information technology and his father, a former Coast Guard officer, lived in Pennsylvania. Could it have been his off and on education: dropping out of high school, studying computers in a community college, earning a GED, four months in the Army Reserves in special-forces training, and discharged after he broke his legs in an accident?
Or was it during his career moves: his first job was with the National Security Agency as a security guard, next in an information-technology job at the Central Intelligence Agency? He was stationed by the CIA in Geneva, but left to work for private a tech consulting firm contractor for Dell,. This contracting work sent him to Japan to work in an NSA office and then to an office in Hawaii, he moved from Dell to Booz Allen, another NSA subcontractor collecting top-secret documents regarding NSA domestic surveillance practices. It was during this time that Snowden came to the decision to blow the whistle.
Snowden found NSA spying on American citizens via phone calls and internet use very wrong. He began copying top-secret NSA documents while at work on practices that he believed illegally invaded privacy. He had a $200,000 salary when in May, 2013, he told his NSA supervisor that he needed a leave of absence to undergo medical treatment because had been diagnosed with epilepsy. With those document in hand, he took a flight to Hong Kong, China, where he remained during the early stages in which United Kingdom’s Guardian newspaper released some of the secret documents he had copied. So it was that on June 14, 2013, federal prosecutors charged Snowden with theft of unauthorized communication of national defense information and disclosure of classified intelligence.
Snowden, not only left his good paying job, but also his girlfriend, and in interviews while in Hong Kong, said, “I’m willing to sacrifice [my former life] because I can’t in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building,” He remained in hiding for nearly one month while unsuccessfully seeking asylum in Ecuador and then flew from Hong Kong to Russia, whose government has denied the U.S. request to extradite him.
Before he left for Russia, he put all the files he had copied in the hands of journalists he met in Hong Kong. He explained that he didn’t want to take them with him to Russia. The New York Times reported, Snowden’s father, Lon Snowden, visited with him in Moscow in support of his son, “I know my son. I know he loves his country,” and he described his son as a “whistle-blower,” not a “leaker.” Apparently more than 100,000 people who, shortly after learning about Snowden, signed an online petition asking Obama to pardon Snowden felt the same way.
(This synopsis was drawn from several sources, chief among them was Edward Snowden. (2015). The Biography.com website. Retrieved 08:45, Feb 18, 2015, from http://www.biography.com/people/edward-snowden-21262897.
For an extended look at Snowden’s thinking, see the Post that will soon follow.