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Edward Snowden
NSA whistleblower

Edward Joseph Snowden (21 June 1983) is an American computer professional and activist who worked for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and later for the National Security Agency (NSA) as a contractor. In June 2013, he released thousands of classified NSA documents to journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill, which has become known as the Snowden Revelations. 1 Snowden is now living in Russia where in 2022 he obtained the Russian nationality.

Snowden started working for the CIA in 2006 after attending a job fair. He was then assigned to the Global Communications Division at CIA headquarters in Langley (Virginia, US). He was later sent to the CIA's secret training school for technology specialists where he spend 6 months training and studying. In March 2007, the CIA stationed him in Geneva under official cover of diplomacy and a fake identity, where he worked as the top technical and cybersecurity expert.

In 2009, after resigning from the CIA, Snowden started working as a contractor for computer giant Dell, who assigned him to an NSA facility at Yokota Air Base near Tokyo (Japan). In 2011 he returned to the US where he worked on Dell's CIA account. In March 2012, Dell reassigned him to Hawaii as lead technologist for the NSA's information-sharing office. On 15 March 2013 he quit his job at Dell and started working as a contractor for Booz Allen Hamilton, after turning down a job offer at NSA's elite hacker team known as Tailored Access Operations (TAO).
Photograph copyright Laura Poitras, Praxis Films. Obtained via Wikipedia [1].

On 20 May 2013, after working for Booz Allen Hamilton for less than three months, Snowden flew to Hong Kong after leaving his job at the NSA facility in Hawaii. There he revealed thousands of classified NSA documents that he had been collecting during the past year to journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill, giving them an insight into the many clandestine unwarranted mass-surveillance programs of the US Government, such as the NSA's PRISM data-collecting program, which, according to Snowden, were unconstitutional.

Stories based on the Snowden revelations have since appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, The New York Times and others. Although many of the disclosures in the international press are based on the information revealed by Snowden, some of them have been falsely attributed to him, indicating that there are other sources of information leaks as well.

On 23 June 2013 — with help from WikiLeaks — Snowden left Hong Kong and flew to Moscow, accompanied by Sarah Harisson of WikiLeaks. It was his intention to travel on to a South American country. However, as his passport had meanwhile been revoked by the US, he got stuck in Russia where he eventually obtained temporary asylum for one year. This was extended in 2014 and was later converted to a permanent asylum. He is currently living at an undisclosed address in Russia. In September 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin granted Snowen Russian citizenship.

On 2 September 2020, a US federal court ruled that the NSA's mass surveillance program was illegal and possibly unconstitutional. During his tenure, US President Donald Trump hinted on several occasions that he might be willing to pardon Snowden, but no action was taken.

Edward Snowden is regarded by some as a dissident, a patriot, a whistleblower and even a hero, but is called a traitor and a spy by others. In any case, his remarkable disclosures have fueled the worldwide debate about mass-surveillance, privacy, information security and (inter)national interests. The information provided here is largely based on the Wikipedia page about Edward Snowden and credits are due to the many contributors listed at the bottom of that page [1].

  1. Also known as Snowden's disclosures.

Related subjects on this website
National Security Agency (USA)
GSMK CryptoPhone IP-19
LOUDAUTO audio-based RF retro reflective covert listening device (bug)
Example of backdoors in cryptographic equipment
  • Verax (2013)
    Short 5-minute low-budget film made by a local production team in Hong Kong, depicting Snowden hiding in the Mira Hotel while being unsuccessfully tracked by the CIA and China's Ministry of State Security. Uploaded to YouTube on 25 June 2013.

  • Classified: The Edward Snowden Story (2014)
    Feature-length crowdfunded film, directed by Jason Bourque, available as a free download. Released 19 September 2014.

  • Citizenfour (2014)
    Two-hour film about Snowden's time in Hong Kong and Moscow, edited by Laura Poitras. Edited in Germany as Poitras was afraid that her material would be seized in the US. Won the 2015 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. Released 10 October 2014.

  • Killswitch (2014)
    Film about big businesses trying to control the internet, the government trying to regulate it and hacktivists trying to free up information, featuring Edward Snowden, Aaron Schwarz, Lawrence Lessig and Tim Wu. World premiere at the Woodstock Film Festival. Released October 2014.

  • Snowden's Great Escape (2015)
    Second Edward Snowden documentary by Realscreen magazine, in coproduction with the German NDR and the Danish DR TV. Includes new interviews with Snowden, recorded in Moscow. Released on 12 January 2015.

  • Snowden (16 September 2016)
    In 2014, The Guardian reported that American director Oliver Stone had bought the rights to Time of the Octopus, a novel based on Snowden's life, written by his Russian lawyer Anatoly Kucherena. Stone used the book along with Luke Harding's The Snowden Files for the screenplay of the feature-length movie Snowden, which was largely shot in Germany in 2015. Release date: 16 September 2016.
A movie by Oliver Stone

American film director Oliver Stone has made a feature film about Edward Snowden, based on the books Time of the Octopus, written by Snowden's Russian lawyer Anatoly Kucherena, and The Snowden Files by Luke Harding. The movie shows how Snowden was first trained by the CIA and then worked for the NSA, where he began to question the legality of the NSA's mass surveillance program and the unwarranted tapping and recording of everybodies personal communications.

It gives us a revealing insight about what the NSA's surveillance program is really capable of, but leaves it to the viewer to decide whether Snowden should be called a hero or a traitor.

Making and financing the movie in the US appeared to be very difficult, if not impossible, so Stone diverted to Munich (Germany) where much of the movie was shot. The screenplay is by Oliver Stone and Kieran Fitzgerald, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Edward Snowden.

Crypto Museum was asked to supply crypto­graphic and espionage equipment for the movie. Together with one other museum and a private collector, we brought together well over 100 objects that are visible in several scenes.

Most of the objects were used to recreate the internal cipher museum at the Hill, the CIA's training center in Virginia (US), but you may also spot the STE crypto phones in the CIA office in Geneva. In March 2015, Crypto Museum's Marc Simons and Paul Reuvers travelled to Munich to assist in the shooting of these scenes. Although photographing was not allowed on the film set, most of the actors took the opportunity to make a 'selfie' with the famous Enigma machine...
Click to see more

During the several weeks of shooting in Munich, the more than 60 objects from our collection were treated extremely well by the production team. All personnel was informed that the staged museum contained 'real museum pieces', which had to be treated as such. After several months, the high-value pieces were returned to us without a single scratch. But not without an incident: when the production company's courrier returned the items, his unmarked van was pulled over at the German motorway twice. On both occasions the police searched the vehicle and summoned the driver to open the boxes, which he refused. Coincidence or intimidation? You decide.

This movie should not be missed.
Release date: 16 September 2016 (USA).
Dutch premiere: Thursday 10 November 2016.

 Official website
 Snowden (2016) on IMDB
 Snowden (film) on Wikipedia
 Interview with Oliver Stone on Democracy NOW!

Items to watch out for in the movie
Heeres Enigma (Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe)
Enigma K, special versions of the Enigma D
ECM Mark II (SIGABA, CSP-888/889, CSP-2900, CSP-1600, CSP-1700)
Swiss NEMA (replacement for Enigma K)
Siemens M-190 mixer machine, used on the Washington-Moscow hotline
Fialka M-125 cipher machines
The Hagelin-designed M-209 (C-38)
C-446-A and C-446(RT)
TSEC/KL7 (Adonis, Pollux)
One of the first electro-mechanical cipher machines build by Gretener
Large Swiss teleprinter with cipher attachment
KY-68 Digital Secure Telephone
Secure Terminal Equipment
AN/CYZ-10 Data Transfer Device
The Confederate Cipher Disk (a variant of the Vigenèr Cipher) used during the American Civil War
Miniflex UA-8036
Mieco 25A telephone scrambler
Hallicrafters SX-28 Super Skyrider receiver
RCA AR-88 receiver
Nagra SN high-end miniature tape recorder
Minifon Mi-51, the first wire recorder from Protona
Wired microphone disguised as a watch
R-354 / Shmel (Bumblebee)
Minox-A, the smallest Minox subminiature camera

Sequence of events
  • 7 May 2004
    Enlisted in the United Army Reserve as a Special Forces (SF) candidate.

  • 27 September 2004
    Discharged after breaking both legs. Training not completed.

  • 2005
    Security Specialist at the Center for Advanced Study of Language of the University of Maryland.

  • 2006
    Joins the CIA after visiting a job fair. Assigned to the global communications division at CIA headquarters in Langley.

  • May 2006
    CIA secret school for technology specialists. Six month full-time training and study.

  • March 2007
    Stationed at CIA office in Geneva (Switzerland) under diplomatic cover. Responsible for maintaining computer network security.

  • 2008
    Hand-picked by the CIA to support the president at the 2008 NATO summit in Romania.

  • February 2009
    Resigns from the CIA and begins working as a contractor for Dell, which manages computer systems for various government agencies, including the NSA. Assigned to NSA facility at Yokota Air Base near Tokyo (Japan). Instructs top officials and military officers on how to defend their networks from Chinese hackers.

  • 2011
    Returns to Maryland where he works on Dell's CIA account.

  • March 2012
    Reassigned by Dell to the NSA information-sharing office in Hawaii.

  • April 2012
    Snowden begins downloading and copying documents.

  • Late 2012
    First contacts with journalist Glenn Greenwald.

  • January 2013
    First contacts with journalist Laura Poitras.

  • 12 March 2013
    Breaking point after 'seeing the Director of National Intelligence lie under oath to the US Congress'.

  • 15 March 2013
    Leaves Dell and starts working as a contractor for Booz Allen Hamilton. Assigned to the NSA facility in Hawaii as a infrastructure analyst.

  • mid-May 2013
    First interview with Laura Poitras and Jacob Appelbaum. Published weeks later by Der Spiegel.

  • 16 May 2013
    First contact with journalist Barton Gellman (Washington Post).

  • 20 May 2013
    Takes leave of absence from the NSA in Hawaii in order to receive treatment for his epilepsy, but leaves Hawaii for Hong Kong. Whilst being in Hong Kong, the first articles based on the leaked documents are published.

  • 5 June 2013
    First article written by Greenwald appears in The Guardian. At this point Greenwald has obtained 9,000 to 10,000 documents from Snowden. Other publications in a variety of media outlets follow in the next months.

  • 9 June 2013
    Snowden's identity is revealed by The Guardian at his request.

  • 14 June 2013
    Charged with 3 criminal complaints for theft of government property and violation of the Esponage Act through unauthorized communication of national defense information, etc. Each charge carries a maximum prison term of 10 years.

  • 22 June 2013
    Snowden's passport revoked by the US.

  • 23 June 2013
    Takes flight SU213 to Moscow, accompanied by Sarah Harrison of WikiLeaks. All documents have been passed to journalists by now and Snowden did not keep any copies himself. Whilst intending to travel on from Moscow to a South American country, he gets stuck at Sheremetyevo international airport in Moscow, as his passport has meanwhile been revoked.

  • 1 July 2013
    After attending a conference of gas-exporting countries in Russia, the plane of Bolivian president Evo Morales is forced to land in Austria where it is searched by the authorities. Apparently the US thought that Snowden might be on this plane. Grounding Morales' plane was a violation of international law.

  • late-July 2013
    Lon Snowden says his son would be better of staying in Russia as he doesn't believe he would receive a fair trial in the US.

  • 1 August 2013
    Temporary asylum granted by Russia for one year. Leaves Moscow airport after 39 days in the transit section.

  • 11 October 2013
    First public appearance in three months. WikiLeaks releases a video of Snowden receiving the Sam Adams Award in Moscow, in the presence of former US government officials.

  • 31 October 2013
    Visited by German lawmaker Hans-Christian Ströbele, who invites him to testify before the German parliament in relation to the NSA surveillance of Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone since 2002. Snowden indicated to be willing to testify, but not from Moscow. Instead he wanted to give testimony before US Congress or in Berlin.

  • December 2013
    US federal judge Richard Leon rules the collection of US phone metadata by the NSA as 'probably unconstitutional'. Ten days later, judge William Pauley III comes to the opposite conclusion, saying that the benefits of surveillance outweight the privacy concerns and that the NSA's collection of phone data is legal. On 7 May 2015 however, this ruling is voided by the US Court of Appeal for the Second Circuit.

  • January 2014
    Interview with German television. Accuses the US of international industrial espionage.

  • January 2014
    US president Obama suggests to Snowden to return to the US to face the charges in court. Declined by Snowden as he will not be able to defend himself due to legal restrictions imposed on him.

  • 26 January 2014
    First interview with Snowden aired on German television (NDR).

  • February 2014
    Written testimony to the European Parliament.

  • March 2014
    Greenwald reveals plans of NSA and GCHQ to infect millions of computers with TURBINE malware, and about QUANTUMHAND, a fake Facebook server used for intercepting communications.

  • April 2014
    Appears in a video on Russian TV in a live annual Q&A with Putin.

  • May 2014
    First interview on American televison, presented by Brian Williams (NBC). German government unanimously decides to invite Snowden to testify as a witness. Snowden has indicated that he is willing to testify in Berlin, but only if he will be given a safe conduct.

  • 13 July 2014
    First story in The Guardian based on a seven-hour interview in a Moscow hotel. On 13 and 17 July short video clips of the interview are released by The Guardian.

  • 18 July 2014
    The Guardian publishes a 10,000 word 'edited transcript' of the interview with Snowden.

  • 7 August 2014
    Receives three-year residency permit in Russia.

  • 10 October 2014
    Release of the movie Citzenfour, edited by Laura Poitras.

  • August 2014
    In an interview discloses information about a secret cyberwarfare program known as MONSTERMIND in which US computers will automatically launch a counter-attack after detecting a cyber-attack on the US. Snowden is concerned about this, as the origin of a cyber-attack on the US can easily be spoofed into coming from elsewhere.

  • October 2014
    Girl friend Lindsay Mills joins Snowden in exile in Moscow.

  • March 2015
    Greenwald reports that, according to German's Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, the US government had threatened to stop sharing intelligence with Germany if that country grants Snowden asylum or arranges for his travel there.

  • 7 May 2015
    The United States Court of Appeal for the Second Circuit voids the ruling of Judge William Pauley of December 2014, in which he found that the NSA's collection of phone data was legal.

  • 2 June 2015
    The US Senate passes, and president Obama signs, the USA Freedom Act, which restores several provisions of the meanwhile expired Patriot Act, albeit in modified form, imposing some limits on the bulk collection of telecom data on US citizens by American intelligence agencies.

  • Early 2016
    Edward Snowden becomes president of the Freedom of the Press Foundation.

  • 16 September 2016
    Release of the movie Snowden, by Oliver Stone.

  • 2017
    Edward Snowden marries Lindsay Mills in a courthouse in Moscow.

  • 17 September 2019
    Release of Edward Snowden's memoirs Permanent Record.

  • 2 September 2020
    A US Federal Court rules that the US intelligence's mass surveillance program was illegal and possibly unconstitutional.

  • September 2022
    Russian President Vladimir Puton grants Snowen Russian citizenship.
  1. Luke harding, The Snowden Files
    ISBN 978-81783350377. 2 October 2014.

  2. Edward Snowden, Permanent Record
    ISBN 978-1250237231. 17 September 2019.

  3. Barton Gellman, Dark Mirror
    ISBN 979-0143110477. 18 May 2021.
  1. Bruce Schneier, Snowden Ten Years Later
    Web log Schneier on Security. 6 June 2023.
  1. Wikipedia, Edward Snowden
    Retrieved September 2015.

  2. Internet Movie Database (IMDB), Snowden
    Retrieved June 2015.

  3. Wikipedia, Snowden (film)
    Retrieved October 2015.
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© Crypto Museum. Created: Wednesday 16 September 2015. Last changed: Friday, 22 September 2023 - 18:45 CET.
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