This note accompanies the follow episode(s):
The Writer’s Almanac for June 21, 2017: The Arrival of the Past

June 21, 2017: birthday: Edward Snowden

It’s the birthday of Edward Snowden, born in Elizabeth City, North Carolina (1983). His family moved to Maryland when he was a boy, and his mother went to work for the federal court in Baltimore. Snowden dropped out of high school, but later earned his GED, and studied computers at a community college. He never earned his college degree, but he seemed to have a natural aptitude for technology. He also enlisted in the Army Reserves but left after four months; depending on whom you ask, he either broke both his legs in a training accident or washed out of the program when he developed shin splints.

He got a job with the Center for Advanced Study of Language at the University of Maryland. The center had ties to the National Security Agency. From there, Snowden went to work for the CIA in 2006; he quit when people began to suspect him of breaking into classified files. He took a series of jobs with NSA subcontractors, and while he was working for consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, he began secretly copying classified documents. He believed that the NSA was gathering too much information on American citizens, and he intended to blow the whistle. In May 2013, he told his supervisor that he needed a medical leave, and then took off for Hong Kong. Soon after, the Guardian and the Washington Post released some of his secret documents.

Snowden has lived overseas ever since and is currently living in Russia on a three-year residence permit that expires this August; his request for clemency from the U.S. government was denied, and despite a plea from various human rights groups, President Obama declined to pardon him before he left office. The House Intelligence Committee called Snowden a “disgruntled employee” and a “serial exaggerator,” and said he “caused tremendous damage to national security.” For his part, Snowden said: “I love my country. I love my family. I don’t know where we’re going from here. I don’t know what tomorrow looks like. But I’m glad for the decisions I’ve made.”