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Who Is Edward Snowden?

Who Is the NSA Whistle-Blower? 9 Things to Know

This weekend, 29-year-old Edward Snowden outed himself as the whistle-blower who exposed the NSA's top-secret PRISM program. In a video recorded at his Hong Kong hotel room, where he is hiding out from authorities, the intelligence worker explained his motivation. He said: "I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under." Here are nine facts that will help you get to know the man responsible for this historic leak. Just keep reading for that insight and to watch Snowden's confessional video.

  1. He had access. Snowden's job at Booz Allen Hamilton, as an infrastructure analyst for the NSA in Hawaii, allowed him an inside look into the government's spying practices. Previously, he had also worked at the CIA as a technical assistant.
  2. His whereabouts are unknown. In May, Snowden took medical leave from his NSA job and headed to Hong Kong. It's an interesting choice, since Hong Kong has an extradition treaty with the US dating back to 1998, which guarantees extraditions. As of Monday morning, he had checked out of his Hong Kong hotel room and his whereabouts were unknown.
  3. 20,000 people want him pardoned. More than 20,000 people have signed a petition on WhiteHouse.gov calling on President Obama to pardon Snowden, whom the petition calls "a national hero."
  4. He became disenchanted with Obama. Snowden said he decided to blow the whistle after he realized President Obama was continuing the practices of the Bush administration. He said in the intelligence community abuses are considered the normal state of business and he was regularly told it was not a problem. Eventually, it was too much for him to handle.
  5. He long planned the leak. After interviewing Snowden, Guardian reporter Ewen MacAskill told Sky News that Snowden had been planning his leak for at least two years, but he told no one about what he was doing.
  6. He gave up the good life. Before his choice to expose top-secret information, Snowden was living in Hawaii making $200,000 a year. He said he was willing to sacrifice all that "because I can't in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, Internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they're secretly building."
  7. He has a girlfriend. Or maybe, had a girlfriend. Snowden says he left for Hong Kong on May 20 without telling his family or girlfriend, and a Hawaii real estate agent said Snowden and his girlfriend moved out of their home near Honolulu on May 1.
  8. He's aware of the consequences. Snowden, who is currently being investigated by the federal government, said, "I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions." But it's worth it to him: "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."
  9. He was in the army. In 2004, Snowden spent four months in the Army Reserves as a special forces recruit, and he told The Guardian that he was discharged after a training accident left both of his legs broken.

Watch his video interview below.

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