If the name Edward Snowden doesn’t ring a bell then maybe you should put down the PlayStation controller and pay attention. Important things are happening all around you, and upgrading your gear in Tom Clancy’s The Division isn’t one of them.
The term whistleblower is defined by Merrim-Webster as “one who reveals something covert or who informs against another.” Edward Snowden, at the very least, is a whistleblower.
Snowden stole classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA) and opened the lid on numerous global surveillance programs that many believe are warrantless, unlawful and in direct violation of our rights to privacy.
Not long after revealing the bulk of this stolen data to three journalists, Snowden fled the United States in an attempt to avoid impending charges of violating the Espionage Act of 1917 and theft of government property; charges that, when grouped together, are punishable by death.
Regardless of what you think about Snowden, his journey to escape the United States is intriguing, and that’s what we’d like to explore today.
In May 2013, Snowden took a leave of absence from his job as an NSA sub-contractor stationed at a government facility in Hawaii. He informed his supervisors that he needed to return to the mainland and receive treatments for epilepsy. This was a lie. He instead flew from Hawaii to Hong Kong where he arrived on May 20th as a soon-to-be fugitive of the United States. At the time, Snowden said he was intent on staying in Hong Kong and vowed to challenge any attempts at extradition.
Despite his spoken intentions, Snowden did not stay in Hong Kong for long. On June 23, 2013, only nine days after formal charges were filed against him in the United States, Snowden fled to Moscow with the supposed help of Russian diplomats.
After arriving in Russia, Snowden was believed to be bound for Venezuela via a safe route to asylum through Cuba. He did, in fact, have a reserved seat on a flight from Moscow to Cuba that was scheduled to depart on June 24th, but it was a flight he never boarded. Snowden has since said that he was committed to making the journey but believes that the U.S. State Department cancelled his passport and placed pressure on the Cuban government to refuse his entry in a designed effort to keep him in Moscow.
Snowden remains in Russia today, though recent articles have suggested that he wants to return the U.S. and would agree to a moderate prison sentence as a part of an orchestrated plea deal.
No one knows exactly what will happen to Snowden. Will he return to the United States, or will he live out his days in Russia? Will he be brought up on charges, or will he accept a plea deal and avoid public trial? Even with so many questions left unanswered, a few facts remain certain.
Our lives are shaped by people and events. Most of the time change comes gradually and is affected by those who are close to us. A father, for example, might go back to school, graduate, get a new job and better his family’s financial situation. A sister might announce that she’s expecting her first child or a cousin might fall terminally ill and pass away. Each of these micro examples is meant to illustrate how change, in its most common form, often happens in close proximity to our lives. That’s not always the case, however, as change can also be forced upon us by the actions of strangers… strangers like Edward Snowden.
Like it or not, Snowden’s actions have made us eerily aware of the fact that our electronic data is being collected, recorded and analyzed by government controlled entities. That’s a change many of us never asked for.
We all seem to have opinions when it comes to privacy, but let’s save them for another time. For now, realize that it takes an incredibly smart individual to successfully navigate his departure from the United States after stealing mountains of classified data that proves our government, as well as many others around the world, have been spying on us all along.
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