United States: Edward Snowden: Three Years On (Video Content)

Last Updated: June 10 2016

Article by Casper Manes.

It's been three years since former NSA contractor Edward Snowden fled the United States and revealed classified information on government surveillance programs involving the US, European governments, and telecommunications companies. In the time since he first came to public notice, he has been living in Russia, which granted him asylum, while the US government has been pressing for his arrest and extradition to face charges of espionage. Let's look back on the events from 2013, what has happened since, and what, if anything, has changed in the world as a result.

Who is Edward Snowden?

Edward Snowden has worked for the CIA, and as a contractor through both Dell and Booz Allen Hamilton for the NSA. A self-proclaimed "computer wizard," Snowden was hired by the CIA in 2006, and worked in cyber security. In 2009 he joined Dell and was assigned to an NSA contract and eventually joined Booz Allen Hamilton, continuing work for the NSA. Snowden held positions in a number of locations both within and outside the US.

What did he do?

Allegedly, starting in 2012, Snowden began to download copies of confidential/classified documents related to the US government's electronic surveillance programs housed on NSA systems, of which he was an administrator. It is further alleged that he used social engineering tactics to gain logon credentials from as many as 25 co-workers in order to gain access to even more information. With access to both US and allies' data, it is estimated that Snowden copied

  • 15K files related to Australian intelligence activities
  • 58K files related to UK intelligence activities
  • 200K or more files related to US intelligence activities, with one DOD estimate stating 1.7M

Including emails, instant messaging records, and documents.

Citing his dissent with government actions, including those he believes are illegal, he quit his job without notice and in May 2013 fled to Honk Kong. He provided several thousand documents to the media in early June 2013 that implicated the US and some allies in both domestic and foreign spying, including on the leaders of other allied nations. Originally planning to fight extradition from Hong Kong, Snowden soon sought asylum in the Russian Embassy to Hong Kong, and was later flown to Russia, where he has been ever since.

He is currently living within Russia under asylum while the US continues to seek his extradition under a deteriorating political relationship with Russia.

Is he a hero or a traitor?

The United States Government files charges against Snowden for both criminal theft and espionage. He faces up to 30 years in prison on those charges alone, the nature of which means any court case would be closed, and which both Snowden and his attorney claim would hinder his ability to mount a defense. Having been charged with espionage, it's clear the US government at least considers him a traitor. On the other side of the coin, because he identified actions that are allegedly illegal in the United States and that violate both treaty and the spirit of alliances with other nations, several countries have offered Snowden asylum.

The European Parliament passed a resolution calling on the US to drop the charges and also for member countries to block any US extradition attempts, citing "his status as whistle-blower and international human rights defender." Several polls of US citizens have been conducted in the time since Snowden's actions became public, with no clear distinction between those who consider him a hero and those who consider him a traitor. Still, internationally, Snowden has received several prominent recognitions, is a paid speaker to various conferences and conventions, and there is a major motion picture about his life and actions coming out this summer.

Has anything gotten better?

That depends upon how you interpret "better." Certainly, public awareness of government surveillance has increased, which again can be seen from both sides of the coin: as a boon for human rights as well as a hindrance to national defence. Which side of that argument is better I leave to you to decide. Various technology companies have been more prominent in releasing technologies that leverage more and stronger encryption to protect privacy, including cell phones capable of user-to-user encryption, secure email services, and more.

Security researchers have also stated that Islamic terrorists have changed their communications methods as a direct result, while several US companies have alleged that an economic impact has resulted from foreign customers no longer trusting that US products don't have in-built surveillance and back-doors. Perhaps both most subtle and most significantly, the US passed the "USA Freedom Act" which extended or restored several parts of the Patriot Act, but with several limitations on collecting telecommunications data regarding US citizens. The "Snowden Effect" is a term coined to refer to anything that has come about or changed as a result of Snowden's revelations.

What's next?

The major Hollywood motion picture "Snowden" will be released in September. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and written by Oliver Stone, it is likely that this will bring Snowden and all he has done back to the forefront of US political thought.

By then, both parties should have their nominee for President officially chosen, and I expect to hear significant rhetoric from both sides on what should be done regarding Snowden as well as what should be done regarding the actions he revealed. Snowden continues to reside in Russia under political asylum, however that was granted by Russia for an initial period that was then extended to three years and will either need to be extended again, or will end, on 1 August 2017.

Whether he will be extended clemency, offered a pardon in exchange for returning to the US and facing charges, or will continue to live as a fugitive, remains to be seen. One thing I think we can all count on is that Snowden will remain a polarizing figure in the debate between privacy and security, and we have not heard the last about him.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

 
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

Disclaimer

Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

Registration

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

Cookies

A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

Links

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

Mail-A-Friend

If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

Security

This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.