The fact that Edward Snowden got out of this unharmed (in most ways) is a reason enough to look into his methods for all the wannabe whistleblowers. I mean simply put, how on earth do you escape from USA (for a good purpose of course) ? His disclosures have fueled debates over mass surveillance, government secrecy, and the balance between national security and information privacy. So here we have the 10 Exciting Edward Snowden facts that you’ll need to understand to become a clever Whistleblower.
The Motivation :
Snowden explained his actions saying: “I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things [surveillance on its citizens] … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded … My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.”
The Sacrifice :
Edward Snowden was being paid $300,000 a year when he exposed the secrets. He was living with his girlfriend Lindsay Mills, whom he left behind when he took the flight to Hong Kong.
The Training :
He was enlisted in the U. S. Army Reserve as a Special Forces candidate on May 7, 2004. He was enlisted through the 18X enlistment option.
He attended a job fair focused on intelligence agencies in the year 2006, in which he was offered a position at Central Intelligence Agency. He was initially assigned to the global communications division at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. He was later stationed in Geneva by the CIA, but left the job to work for private contractors including Dell and Booz Allen Hamilton in the year 2009.
While working with Dell, he was transferred to Tokyo, Japan and later to Hawaii as a subcontractor in an NSA office. In his four years with Dell, he rose from supervising NSA computer system upgrades and a “cyberstrategist” and an “expert in cyber counterintelligence.” He was reassigned to Hawaii, as lead technologist for the NSA’s information-sharing office in March 2012. He left Dell and joined Booz Allen, another subcontractor, where he worked only for three months, before blowing the whistle. In May 2013, Snowden took the decision that changed his life forever and flew to Hong Kong with large store of documents containing vast information on NSA’s domestic surveillance practices.
He trained for 6 days in core Java programming and advanced ethical hacking, during his visit to India on official business at the U.S. embassy and later was doing an online masters.
The Allies :
In January 2013, he contacted documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, reportedly after seeing her New York Times documentary about NSA whistleblower William Binney. And then Russia proved to be a pretty good ally.
The Ethics :
According to Snowden, he did not indiscriminately turn over documents to journalists, stating that “I carefully evaluated every single document I disclosed to ensure that each was legitimately in the public interest. There are all sorts of documents that would have made a big impact that I didn’t turn over” and that “I have to screen everything before releasing it to journalists … If I have time to go through this information, I would like to make it available to journalists in each country.” Despite these measures, the improper redaction of a document by the New York Times resulted in the exposure of intelligence activity against al-Qaeda.
The Method :
Snowden communicated using encrypted email, and going by the codename “Verax”. He asked not to be quoted at length for fear of identification by stylometry.
The Asylum :
He applied for asylum in 40 countries before Russia agreed to take him in. Several governments offered him asylum, such as Bolivia, but he did not think that he would be safe in them and so applied for asylum in larger countries, such as Britain(who refused), China(who also refused but allowed him to travel through their airspace) and Russia(who granted him asylum).
The Risks :
Snowden was charged with theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information, and willful communication of classified intelligence with an unauthorized person, by federal prosecutors on June 14, 2013. Each of these charges carries a maximum prison term of ten years. He has been called a ‘Russian Spy’ by several people and that they would attempt to kill him in a covert operation. A private military contractor offered to hunt down Snowden for the USA using their own private staff and soldiers. The USA refused.
The Aftermath :
The USA threatened to cancel certain trade with Ecuador unless it handed over Snowden. Among the things they threatened to cut off was 63,000 tonnes of flowers. Snowden’s disclosures created great tension by October 2013, between the U. S. and some close allies that the NSA had spied on including Brazil, France, Britain, Germany, Mexico and Spain.
In June 2014, the NSA’s recently installed director, U.S. Navy Admiral Michael S. Rogers, stated that while some terrorist groups had altered their communications to avoid surveillance techniques revealed by Snowden, the damage done was not significant enough to conclude that “the sky is falling.” Nevertheless, in February 2015, Rogers said that Snowden’s disclosures has a “material impact” on the NSA’s ability to “generate insights as to what counterterrorism, what terrorist groups around the world are doing.”
Snowden also told Gellman that until the articles were published, the journalists working with him would also be at mortal risk from the United States Intelligence Community.
The Rewards :
He was awarded the biennial German “whistleblower prize,” along with an accompanying award equal to 3,000 euro in August 2013. He has been given many other awards/titles worldwide. Snowden said that he lives “a surprisingly open life” in Russia and that he is recognized when he goes to computer stores.