Edward Snowden came to international attention in June 2013 after disclosing thousands of classified documents to media outlets. The documents, which he had acquired while working as a National Security Agency (NSA) contractor for Dell and Booz Allen Hamilton, uncovered the existence of numerous global surveillance programs. Snowden’s release of NSA material has been considered one of the most significant leaks in U.S. history.
Shortly after releasing the first NSA documents, Snowden revealed his identity in a video filmed by Laura Poitras and published by The Guardian. On June 14, 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice charged Snowden with two counts of violating the Espionage Act and theft of government property, punishable by up to 30 years in prison. The U.S. Department of State subsequently revoked his passport. Snowden traveled to Moscow but was stranded in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport before being granted a one-year temporary renewable asylum in Russia. In August 2014, he was given permission to remain in Russia for three years.
Snowden has been called a hero, a traitor, a dissident, and a patriot; he has stated that his sole motive in leaking the documents was to inform the public.