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Edward Joseph Snowden (born June 21, 1983) is an American computer specialist, a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee, and former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor who disclosed classified NSA documents to several media outlets, initiating the NSA leaks, which reveal operational details of a global surveillance apparatus run by the NSA, its Five Eyes partners, and numerous commercial and international partners.
Snowden's release of classified material was called the most significant leak in US history by Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg. Aseries of exposés beginning June 5, 2013 revealed Internet surveillance programs such as PRISM, XKeyscore and Tempora, as well as the interception of US and European telephone metadata. The reports were based on documents Snowden leaked to The Guardian andThe Washington Post while employed by NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. By November 2013, The Guardian had published one percent of the documents, with "the worst yet to come".
A subject of controversy, Snowden has been variously called a hero, a whistleblower, a dissident, a traitor, and a patriot. According to Snowden, his "sole motive" for leaking the documents was "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. Seven months after the NSA revelations began, Snowden declared his mission accomplished, citing the international debate sparked by his leaks. A federal judge in December 2013 ruled that the government had "almost certainly" violated the US Constitution by collecting metadata on nearly every phone call within or to the United States. Ten days later, a different federal judge ruled the surveillance program was legal, raising the likelihood that the constitutionality of the program would ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court.
Snowden's passport was revoked by US officials during a layover in Moscow whilst en route to the Republic of Ecuador on June 23, 2013. He remained in a Moscow airport transit zone until the Russian government granted him a one-year temporary asylum on August 1. He is considered a fugitive by American authorities who have charged him with espionage and theft of government property. Numerous media outlets and politicians issued calls for leniency in the form of amnesty, clemency or pardon in the beginning of 2014, while others called for him to be imprisoned or hanged. He lives in an undisclosed location in Russia and continues to seek permanent asylum.