Edward Snowden is a former NSA contractor who leaked highly classified information from the agency in 2013. His leak revealed numerous global surveillance programs run by the United States and the United Kingdom. Snowden initially reported the perceived ethical breaches of the surveillance internally, but no one seemed interested in addressing the issues raised. 

In May 2013, Snowden flew to Hong Kong, where he presented journalists with drives containing thousands of NSA documents. He came to international attention after the leaks appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, and other publications. People initially viewed Snowden’s views as treasonable, but recent polls show that many have come to appreciate his leak due to the legal reforms it inspired. 

Edward was granted permanent residence in Russia in late 2020 where he lives with his wife and child

In October 2020, Reuters confirmed that Russia had granted Edward permanent residence. “His (Russian) residency permit was expiring and we asked to extend it,” Anatoly Kucherena, his Russian lawyer, told Reuters

“We submitted the documents in April and we got permanent residence rights,” he added. A potential return to the United States seemed possible as, in August 2020, President Trump flirted with the idea of pardoning Snowden. Then-Attorney General Bill Barr ‘vehemently opposed’ a potential pardon. 

“He was a traitor and the information he provided our adversaries greatly hurt the safety of the American people,’ Bill said. “He was peddling it around like a commercial merchant. We can’t tolerate that.”

In late December 2020, Snowden announced the birth of his first child, who will have Russian citizenship. “The greatest gift is the love we share,” Edward wrote on Twitter alongside a photo of himself, his wife, and his newborn child. The couple hid the baby’s face with a blushing emoji. 

Snowden’s wife, Lindsay Mills, joined Snowden in Moscow in 2014. Edward told The Guardian that Mills was pissed when he left their Hawaii home in a rush. Snowden didn’t tell her of his plans to be a whistleblower as it would have made her an accessory. Mills suspected that Edward was having an affair.

Extracts of Lindsay’s diary were published in Snowden’s memoir, Permanent Record. Mills wrote that the FBI suspected that she’d killed Snowden. “He was looking at me like I killed Ed,” Lindsay described one officer. “He was looking around the house for his body.”

Edward expected Mills to be mad at him, but she stated that she loved him and supported his decision to expose the NSA. Snowden and Mills wed in 2017 in a Russian courthouse. 

Snowden had planned to seek asylum in Ecuador, but he was stopped in Moscow

After leaving Hong Kong, Snowden planned to travel to Ecuador, where he would seek asylum. He, however, had to pass through Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport. At the airport, he learned that the United States government had canceled his passport. Russian intelligence services offered to assist Snowden in return for any secrets he harbored. 

“I didn’t corporate with the Russian intelligence services – I haven’t and I won’t,” Snowden told NPR. “I destroyed my access to the archive. I had no material with me before I left Hong Kong, because I knew I was going to have to go through this complex multi-jurisdictional route.”

Twenty-seven nations denied Snowden asylum before he settled in Russia. Paranoia governed his early life in Russia, as he feared that US agents would target him seeking retribution. “I was very much a person the most powerful government in the world wanted to go away,” Edward told The Guardian.

“They did not care whether I went away to prison. They did not care whether I went away into the ground. They just wanted me gone.” As time went by, however, he abandoned his disguises and started moving freely around the city. 

Snowden earns by speaking to civil rights activists, students, both locally and abroad via video link-ups. Edward loves traveling, and though he is restricted to Russia’s borders, he has plenty to see in the vast nation. Snowden told The Guardian that his perception of Russia has changed in the years that he’s lived there. He said:

“One of the things that is lost on all the problematic politics of the Russian government is the fact this is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. The people are friendly. The people are warm. And when I came here I did not understand any of this. I was terrified of this place, because, of course, they were the great fortress of the enemy, which is the way a CIA agent looks at Russia.”

Edward serves as the president of the Freedom of the Press Foundation

Edward Snowden’s Twitter page states that he used to work for the government but is now a public servant. 

Snowden joined the board of the Freedom of the Press Foundation in 2014 and became its president in 2016. The Foundation aims to ‘protect, defend, and empower’ public-interest journalism in the 21st century. 

Edward has criticized attempts by governments to breach people’s privacy. Social media companies continue to face pressure to grant authorities special access to encrypted messages. 

During the first ‘Global Encryption Day,’ Snowden described granting government such access as a ‘colossal mistake.’ Tech companies argue that encrypting messages is crucial in maintaining privacy between individuals. 

Conversely, governments fear that encryption may hamper investigations into crimes like terrorism. Per CNBC, Snowden opined that authorities should have no access to people’s information:

“It was meant to protect us, to shelter us from the institutional behemoths that sort of marched in the cities of our day, whether it’s the modern time or the time before. It was an insulating layer that allowed those of us who wield very little power in society, because we are individuals, to think and act and associate freely.”

Snowden remains exiled in Russia, but his impact continues to be felt by governments worldwide. He appears to value his role as a public defender.