Do you remember the brouhaha created in 2013 over leaked classified information of the USA?
If you do, then you would surely remember the man behind the biggest intelligence leak, Edward Snowden. And if you don't, here are the intriguing facts about the man who is a computer professional, privacy activist, former CIA employee, former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor.
The computer wizard Snowden started as a security guard at a covert NSA facility before moving on to CIA to work on IT security. The ex-CIA agent exposed vital information about the US government, especially the workings of US secret surveillance. He was then charged with espionage.
But people have different views about Edward Snowden as some feel he is a patriot and call him a national hero, as he was concerned about people's privacy. But many view him as a traitor who exposed national secrets of their country to the world.
Whatever the view, there's no doubt that this computer geek has a vivid personality that is difficult to know through Edward Snowden's Facebook or Twitter posts.
Read on about him to get truly surprised.
On May 20, 2013, Edward Snowden flew to Hong Kong after leaving his job at an NSA facility in Hawaii. He carried with him a large store of classified documents that contained confidential information on NSA's domestic surveillance practices which he revealed in June to journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Ewen MacAskill.
He received international attention after stories based on the information he revealed appeared in The Guardian and The Washington Post.
The US Department of Justice on June 21, 2013, framed charges against Edward Snowden on account of violating the Espionage Act of 1917 and theft of government property.
Soon after the charges were levelled against Snowden, he flew to Moscow, Russia on June 23, 2013, and remained there for over a month. The Russian government granted Snowden asylum for a period of one year that was further extended to three years. Snowden is still residing at an undisclosed location in Russia though he is seeking asylum elsewhere.
Because the Russian government is providing him asylum it is considered by people in the US that Edward Snowden cooperated with the Russians.
After Snowden arrived in Russia, reports suggest that he has been in contact with Russian intelligence. But Snowden was quick to refute allegations through his Twitter handle stating, "They claim without evidence that I am in cahoots with the Russians."
Not only the critics of Edward Snowden, but even the American government finds it difficult to digest his claim that he is living in Russia without any intervention of government there.
In 2015, 167,000 people signed a petition showing support for Snowden but this petition was rejected by the federal government. The US government believes that Edward Snowden compromised confidential information that amounts to espionage and for that Snowden should return to the US and face prosecution.
Snowden was passionate about the Iraq war and wanted to join the Special Forces and this is one of the reasons that a lot of people believe in Snowden. Edward wanted to fight in the Iraq war as he felt an obligation as a human being to help free people from oppression but he was discharged during training.
Snowden early on the training realised that most people training the soldiers seemed to be inclined towards killing Arabs rather than liberating the Iraqis from oppression.
Many American innovators had to drop out of college to pursue their dreams, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg are to name a few but Edward Snowden is a high school dropout.
Besides working for NSA, he also worked for Booz Allen Hamilton, a prominent defence equipment manufacturing company.
Edward Snowden joined the board of directors of The Freedom of the Press Foundation in 2014. Co-founded by Daniel Ellsberg, journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras are also on the board.
Since 2013, Snowden has kept a low profile and is rarely seen in public. Edward created a Twitter handle in 2015 and in less than an hour, he gained close to 110,000 followers. Today he has 3.64 million followers but follows only one handle, make a guess… The NSA.
While planning his move in Hong Kong after the leaks, Snowden found Iceland to be the perfect place to take asylum. However, his attempts at gaining Icelandic citizenship failed as Iceland parliament did not put his proposal on their voting agenda.
After his passport was revoked, Snowden was stranded in Russia.
Anime is the abbreviation for animation in Japan and it is basically hand-drawn or computer animation. As a teenager, Edward Snowden liked Japanese culture and had always dreamed of visiting Tokyo. For some time, Snowden even worked for an anime company in Maryland run by his friends. His dream became true when he landed in Tokyo while working for NSA.
House Intelligence in 2016 issued a 36-page report giving a detailed outline of how the leaks were selective and the extent to which the damage has been caused to the US national security. The US government thinks that the intelligence leaks made by Edward Snowden has not only compromised national secrets but also information about people living in the United States.
It could be because of his secretive working or his nature. Whatever the cause, Snowden is paranoid. While entering passwords in his computer, Snowden covers himself and his computer with a large cloth so no prying eyes or hidden cameras can detect his inputs.
Snowden is concerned about his safety and plans calculated moves to make sure his hide-out is not revealed. Also, when Snowden checks into a hotel room he lines the door of the room with pillows so no one can eavesdrop on him. He revealed this fact to The Guardian.
Edward Snowden was declared the Person of the Year 2013 by The Guardian. He was voted with four times the number of votes received by any other candidate.
Pope Francis was named Time's Person of the Year 2013 and Snowden was declared as a runner-up for which Time was criticized, as Snowden was placed second and not first.
In 2014, Snowden was named among Time's 100 Most Influential People in the world.
The journey of Snowden was brought on celluloid by Oliver Stone based on the books, The Snowden Files by Luke Harding and Time Of The Octopus written by Anatoly Kucherena, Snowden's Russian lawyer.
Oliver Stone's biopic 'Snowden', which was released in September 2016, had Snowden portrayed by the American actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Shortly before the release of the film, Oliver Stone said Edward Snowden should be pardoned, calling him a "patriot above all" and suggesting that he should run the NSA.
Bolivian President Evo Morales plane was rerouted to Austria as various European nations refused to let the plane carrying the President cross their airspace. Those nations suspected that Edward Snowden was aboard the same aircraft that carried the Bolivian President. Later, those European nations realised their mistake and later apologised to the Bolivian President.
The US Senate and the then President of United States of America, Barack Obama on June 2, 2015, passed and signed the USA Freedom Act, which restored in modified form several provisions of the Patriot Act. The USA Freedom Act restrains journalists from collecting telecommunication data of US citizens.
Edward Snowden, after leaking the information allowed himself to be identified as the source of disclosures about the secret US surveillance programs. He said, "His sole motive is to inform the people as to that what is done in their name and that what is done against them."
Snowden also states that he is neither a traitor nor a hero.
"I'm an American," he remarked.
If you talk about the present day, USA has voted to renew surveillance powers revealed by Snowden and we're still to see what happens next.