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Who is Edward Snowden, the self-styled NSA leaker? | Updated: 2023-06-02 15:12
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Newly released "Permanent Record" by Edward Snowden is displayed on a shelf at Books Inc. on Sept 17, 2019 in San Francisco, California. [Photo/VCG]

June 21, 1983

Edward Snowden is born in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. He spends his early life there before moving with his parents, Lonnie, a Coast Guard officer, and Elizabeth, known as Wendy, to Maryland.


Snowden attends public schools in Anne Arundel County, south of Baltimore, before dropping out of high school in his sophomore year.


During this period, The New York Times reports, he developed a fascination for computers and technology. He registers on the Ars Technica website, a hacking and technology forum. After his parents' divorce in 2001, Snowden lives with his mother in Ellicott City, Maryland.


After attending a local community college off and on, Snowden passes a General Educational Development test to receive a high school equivalency credential. In March 2004, he is enlisted in an Army Reserve Special Forces training program. But he breaks his leg in a training accident, and Army records show he is discharged in September. He then lands a job as a security guard at the Center for Advanced Study of Language at the University of Maryland, which has a close relationship with the National Security Agency.


Snowden is hired by the CIA as a technical/IT expert and receives top-secret clearance.


Snowden is posted to Geneva, Switzerland, under diplomatic cover as an IT and cybersecurity expert for the CIA, a position that gives him access to a wide array of classified documents.

Late 2009-March 2012

Snowden's supervisor at the CIA places a critical assessment of his behavior and work habits in his personal file and voiced suspicion that he tried to "break into classified computer files to which he was not authorized to have access", The New York Times reports after he is identified as a leaker, quoting two unnamed"senior US officials". Snowden leaves the CIA soon and starts work as an NSA contractor assigned by Dell—one of 854,000 contractors with top-secret clearance working for the federal government. Over the next several years, he switches between assignments with the NSA and the CIA for Dell, including a stint at an NSA facility in Japan that lasts until March 2012.

March 2012

Snowden moves to Hawaii to work at NSA facility as a Dell employee.

Dec 1, 2012

Snowden reaches out to Glenn Greenwald, a lawyer and columnist for The Guardian.

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