The US Government's top-secret eavesdropping mission was leaked through a
detailed NSA document that rocked the world when it exposed how
Internet giants like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Yahoo were
offering direct access to their users' data to the NSA. Though Internet
companies in question have
participating in any kind of 'direct access' surveillance program, the
controversy just refuses to die down.
Who leaked this top-secret
document was not known until today when Edward Snowden decided to come
forward and reveal his identity to the world via The
the publication that first exposed the Prism surveillance system.
Snowden is a 29-year old former technical assistant for the CIA and
current employee of the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. He has
been working at the NSA for the last four years on the payrolls of
defence contractors including Booz Allen and Dell.
The Guardian, Snowden had attached a note with the first set of leaked
documents that said, "I understand that I will be made to suffer for my
actions," but "I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law,
unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world
that I love are revealed even for an instant."
He did not want
media attention so that attention is not diverted from the actual
matter, "I don't want public attention because I don't want the story to
be about me. I want it to be about what the US government is doing,"
According to the report, Snowden was leading a
comfortable life and was being paid a salary of roughly $200,000. He
lived in Hawaii with his girlfriend and has a family. He says he was
willing to sacrifice everything as he can't allow the US government to
destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around
the world with this massive surveillance machine they were secretly
Three weeks ago, Snowden copied all the documents that
he has exposed at the NSA's Hawaii office where he worked and applied
for leave for a "couple of weeks" for treatment of his medical
condition. Snowden suffered from epilepsy, which he discovered last
At the NSA office in Hawaii where he was working, he copied the last set of documents he intended to disclose.
then went to Hong Kong on May 20 where he's currently residing. Snowden
says he chose Hong Kong because he felt "they have a spirited
commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent", and
because he believed that it was among the few places in the world that
would not budge under pressure from the US if it wanted.
the three weeks, Snowden has mostly remained in his hotel room and has
ventured out about three times during the entire stay. He's a little
paranoid about being spied on and puts a large red hood over his head
and laptop when entering his passwords.
According to the report,
the NSA police and other law enforcement officers have visited Snowden's
residence in Hawaii twice, and have already contacted his girlfriend.
was brought up in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, US. His family moved
later to Maryland, near the NSA headquarters in Fort Meade.
to him, he was not a stellar student and for getting the credits
necessary to obtain a high school diploma, he attended a community
college in Maryland, studying computing, but never completed the
coursework, though he later obtained his GED.
Snowden enlisted in
the US army in 2003 and joined a training program to join the Special
Forces because he wanted to fight in Iraq to free people from
He broke both his legs in a training accident and was
discharged from the program, only to join an NSA facility as a security
guard for the NSA's covert facilities at the University of Maryland.
then went to the CIA to work in IT security and his Internet skills and
computer programming knowledge helped him to rise.
He was sent to
Geneva, Switzerland in 2007 and was given the responsibility for
maintaining computer network security. This allowed him access to a wide
range of secret documents. Snowden said that the first time he thought
he'd expose the US government was when he was stationed in Geneva.
quit the CIA in 2009 to take his first job with a private contractor
that stationed him to a functioning NSA facility, at a Japanese military
The desire to fight for the privacy rights of the common
people led him to exposing the US government's secret mission after
learning about the NSA's surveillance activities over the course of the
last three years.
With inputs from AFP