"Edward Joseph "Ed" Snowden (/ˈɛdˌwərd ˈdʒoʊˌsɨf ˈsnoʊˌdən/, ed-wərd-joh-siff-snoh-dənn, born June 21, 1983) is an American computer specialist and a former CIA and NSA employee who intentionally disclosed classified details of several top-secret United States and British government mass surveillance programs to the press.
Based on information Snowden leaked to The Guardian in May 2013 while employed at NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, the British newspaper published a series of exposés that revealed programs such as the interception of U.S. and European telephone metadata and the PRISM, XKeyscore, and Tempora Internet surveillance programs. Snowden's release of NSA material was called the most significant leak in U.S. history by Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg.
On June 14, 2013, United States federal prosecutors charged Snowden with espionage and theft of government property. Snowden fled the United States prior to the publication of his disclosures, first to Hong Kong (China) and then on to Moscow (Russia), where he was granted political asylum by the government of Russia at the end of July 2013 and where he now resides at an undisclosed location. Snowden has been a subject of controversy: he has been variously called a hero, a whistleblower, a dissident, a traitor, and a patriot. There is confusion on exactly what Snowden's status is, and whether he truly qualifies as a whistleblower, which commonly is understood as a person who exposes wrongdoing. By avoiding labeling Snowden a whistleblower, some members of the media attempt to avoid making a value judgement on his actions. Tom Kent, the standards editor for the Associated Press, informed AP staff to refer to Snowden as a "leaker", not a "whistleblower". But David K. Colapinto of the National Whistleblower Center said in June 2013 that Snowden's allegations that the NSA had lied to the United States Congress qualified his behavior as "classic whistle-blowing".
According to a publication in The Guardian in early June 2013 that referred to Snowden's "note accompanying the first set of documents he provided", his "sole motive", in his words, was "to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them." Some U.S. officials condemned his actions as having done "grave damage" to the U.S. intelligence capabilities while others, such as former president Jimmy Carter, have applauded his actions. Meanwhile, the media disclosures have renewed debates both inside and outside the United States over mass surveillance, government secrecy, and the balance between national security and information privacy."