Edward Snowden reveals NSA digital surveillance
6th June 2013
Edward Snowden was a computer intelligence consultant who worked for the US National Security Agency (NSA) as both an employee and a contractor over several years.
Snowden became a whistleblower, leaking a large number of classified documents to the media. These documents revealed the full extent of global surveillance operations by the NSA, the Five Eyes alliance (an intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and the USA), and numerous commercial and international partners.
The first journalist to report on Snowden's revelations was Glenn Greenwald. His article was published in The Guardian with the headline "NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily" on 6th June 2013.
Later stories provided further details about digital surveillance operations, triggering a widespread debate about the extent of government surveillance.
Snowden's actions forced the US to admit that they had been spying on their own citizens. James Clapper, the US director of national intelligence, had previously testified to Congress that the NSA did not collect data on millions of American citizens. He was forced to apologise and admit that his statement had been “clearly erroneous”. A court later ruled that the NSA telephone data collection program was illegal.
President Obama appointed a panel to review cybersecurity, intelligence and surveillance practices. This panel recommended many changes, some of which were adopted in order to restrict the surveillance authorities of the intelligence community.
On 21st June 2013 the US charged Snowden with espionage and theft of government property, revoking his passport. Snowden fled to Moscow, where he was granted asylum. In September 2022, Snowden became a Russian citizen. He faces up to 30 years in prison if he were ever to return to US soil.
Edward Snowden's story is told in the 2016 biographical thriller film "Snowden", directed by Oliver Stone.