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Edward Snowden, in full Edward Joseph Snowden (born June 21, 1983, in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, U.S.), American intelligence contractor who in 2013 revealed the existence of secret wide-ranging information-gathering programs conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA).
Snowden was born in North Carolina, and his family moved to central Maryland, a short distance from NSA headquarters at Fort Meade when he was a child. He dropped out of high school and studied intermittently between 1999 and 2005 at a community college; he completed a GED but did not receive a college degree. He enlisted in the army reserve as a special forces candidate in May 2004, but he was discharged four months later. In 2005 he worked as a security guard at the Center for Advanced Study of Language, a University of Maryland research facility affiliated with the NSA. Despite a relative lack of formal education and training, Snowden demonstrated an aptitude for computers, and the Central Intelligence Agency hired him in 2006. He was given a top-secret clearance and, in 2007, was posted to Geneva, where he worked as a network security technician under a diplomatic cover.
Snowden left the CIA for the NSA in 2009. There he worked as a private contractor for Dell and Booz Allen Hamilton. During this time, he began gathering information on several NSA activities—most notably, secret surveillance programs that he believed were overly broad in size and scope. In May 2013, Snowden requested a medical leave of absence and flew to Hong Kong. During the following month, he conducted a series of interviews with journalists from the newspaper The Guardian. Footage filmed during that period was featured in the documentary Citizenfour (2014). Among the NSA secrets leaked by Snowden was a court order that compelled telecommunications company Verizon to turn over metadata (such as numbers dialled and duration of calls) for millions of its subscribers. Snowden also disclosed the existence of PRISM, a data-mining program that reportedly gave the NSA, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Government Communications Headquarters—Britain’s NSA equivalent—“direct access” to the servers of such Internet giants as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple.