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Edward Snowden
Edward Joseph Snowden is an American computer professional, former employee of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and former contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA). He came to international attention after disclosing to several media outlets thousands of classified documents that he acquired while working for, respectively, the IT consulting firm Dell and the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden's release of classified material has been described as the most significant leak in U.S. history by Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg. The U.S. Department of Justice charged Snowden with espionage on June 14, and the U.S. Department of State revoked his passport on June 22. On June 23, using his U.S. passport, Snowden flew to Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport. On August 1, the Russian government granted him a one-year temporary renewable asylum.
Snowden's leaked documents uncovered the existence of numerous global surveillance programs, many of them run by the NSA and the Five Eyes with the cooperation of telecommunication companies and European governments. In 2013, the existence of the Boundless Informant was revealed, along with the PRISM electronic data mining program, the XK eyscore analytical tool, the Tempora interception project, the MUSCULAR access point and the massive FASCIA database, which contains trillions of device-location records. In the following year, Britain's Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group was revealed, along with the Dishfire database, Squeaky Dolphin's real-time monitoring of social media networks, and the bulk collection of private webcam images via the Optic Nerve program. A subject of controversy, Snowden has been variously called a hero, a whistleblower, a dissident, atraitor, and a patriot.
Snowden's "sole motive" for leaking the documents was, in his words, "to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them." The disclosures have fueled debates over mass surveillance, government secrecy, and the balance between national security and information privacy. Two court rulings since the initial leaks have split on the constitutionality of the NSA's bulk collection of telephone metadata. Snowden is considered a defendant by American authorities. In early 2014, some media outlets and politicians called for leniency in the form of clemency, amnesty orpardon, while others called for him to be imprisoned, ex-CIA director James Woolsey said that Snowden should be hanged if convicted of treason, and anonymous "spies" want him murdered. He lives in an undisclosed location in Russia, and is seeking asylum in the European Union. In March 2014, Snowden participated by teleconference as a featured speaker before two prominent technology conferences: South by Southwest Interactive and TED. In February 2014, for reporting based on Snowden's leaks, journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Ewen MacAskill and Barton Gellman were honored as co-recipients of the 2013 George Polk Award, which they dedicated to Snowden. The NSA reporting by these journalists earned The Guardian and The Washington Post the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, which Snowden termed “a vindication”.

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