9 things to know about Edward Snowden

The man behind one of the biggest political leaks ever earned $200K, lived in Hawaii and had a 'very comfortable life' before fleeing to Hong Kong.

By Aimee Picchi Jun 10, 2013 11:00AM

In this handout photo provided by The Guardian, Edward Snowden speaks during an interview in Hong Kong (© The Guardian via Getty Images)Behind one of the biggest leaks in political history is a 29-year-old man named Edward Snowden, who by his own account is facing an uncertain future after disclosing information about the National Security Agency's data collection on American citizens and foreigners. 

Regardless of whether you consider him a hero or a traitor, Snowden's motivations are likely to baffle many readers, especially as details about his life emerge. 

For one, Snowden has given up the kind of life that, at least from the outside, would appear to be one many Americans can only dream of. Before fleeing to Hong Kong, he lived in a quiet suburb of Honolulu and was earning a salary of roughly $200,000 working for consulting giant Booz Allen Hamilton (BAH), The Guardian reports. Snowden told the newspaper he had "a very comfortable life."

Snowden leaked the information to The Guardian and The Washington Post that the NSA and the FBI were tapping into the servers of some of the world's biggest tech companies, including Google (GOOG) and Yahoo (YHOO).

Here are eight more things to know about Snowden:

He never finished high school. Snowden described himself as a lackluster student who earned a GED after failing to complete the coursework to obtain a high school diploma. 

Broken legs derailed his military ambitions. After obtaining his GED, Snowden enlisted in the U.S. Army and started a training program to join the special forces. He said he was discharged after breaking both legs in a training accident. 

His computer talents led him to the CIA. Snowden started out working as a security guard for the NSA, but his computer programming talents got him hired by the Central Intelligence Agency, which later stationed him in Geneva, Switzerland. 



A drunk Swiss banker prompted his disillusionment. His loss of faith in government started when CIA operatives allegedly got a Swiss banker drunk, then encouraged the man to drive home. After the banker was arrested for drunk driving, one undercover agent offered to help and successfully recruited the banker, Snowden claims. "Much of what I saw in Geneva really disillusioned me about how my government functions," he said.

He lied to his boss and girlfriend. After copying the documents he would leak to the media, Snowden told his boss at Booz Allen that he needed to receive treatment for epilepsy and would be away for a "couple of weeks." He told his girlfriend he'd also be away for a while, but was vague about the reason. He then boarded a flight to Hong Kong, where he was holed up in a swanky hotel. He checked out of the hotel Monday, according to reports.

His bedside reading is Dick Cheney's biography. Snowden has a copy of "Angler," the biography of former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney in his hotel room. Snowden is also reading Internet news sources and watching TV to keep track of the effects of his whistleblowing. 

He lined his hotel door with pillows. Snowden lined the door of his hotel room with pillows to deter eavesdropping, The Guardian notes. He also covers his laptop and his head with a large red hood to prevent cameras from zooming in on his screen when he's entering his passwords. 

He's running out of money. Snowden's stay in what the newspaper calls a "plush hotel" apparently came at a cost, with CNN reporting that the whistleblower is in danger of running out of money and wants to find asylum. Asked what he thinks will happen to him, he told the Guardian, "Nothing good." 

Follow Aimee Picchi on Twitter at @aimeepicchi.

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Jun 10, 2013 12:57PM
Well, what he earned really has nothing to do with it.  However, I now have only more respect for this man--he feels revealing the truth is more important than a cushy life in Hawaii.  Kudos to him.
Jun 10, 2013 2:41PM
Why do I care what book he is reading right now?  I am sure he has read a lot of books.  Since the media perceives this story as a threat to Obama's administration, they will do everything they can to slander the man.  This is just the beginning.  Do you think the MSN would have mentioned the book he was reading if was about some liberal like that Rachel Maddow guy? 
Jun 10, 2013 3:46PM

So all of this means what?

Why not report on all of the sleazy, under-handed, criminal things the federal politicians continue to do day in and day out? Huh? Report on how the flood of illegals in this country is taking it's toll on the taxpayers. What exactly does any of this have to do with how we're being treated by the very people and agencies that are supposed to be SERVING us, the citizens of this country.

Jun 10, 2013 3:53PM
Let us remember that the security of our country has always, throughout history, hinged on these practices. The difference is that prior to the advent of computers it took longer to divulge such actions, and there was greater fear of reprisal.
What he earned has a lot to do with it; you see, many folk with education, experience and verifiable references were turned away for this position due to factors, which, if stated, would have lead to a lawsuit against Booz Allen Hamilton.
He did not think of his security or that of others, hence, it was not necessary to forward his concern to higher ranking officials, or even a politician who does not like President Obama.
Many of our fellow citizens live overseas, to incite university students, when we disagree with foreign governments policies, or their interference with north Americans who own business overseas, and engage in illegal practices, such as contamination of waters, using pesticides not approved by the FDA, for use here, etc.
Jun 10, 2013 7:09PM
Seems he has the good sense of a nematode.  What a waste... how many of us didn't already know that the Patriot Act was the end of anonymity? 

"Americans are going to have to give up their freedom. Your own government will take your freedoms from you."--- bin Laden, in voicetape released March of 2002. 
Jun 10, 2013 4:54PM
There is a Article on Fox News.Com on May 10, 2006 titled, " NSA Wiretapping Probe Halted Over Security Clearance".  There are tons of others about this topic. In this one, A democrat, Hinchey from NY was highly critical of the Domestic eavesdropping program. The NSA during Bush's term refused to grant Justice Department Lawyers clearance to probe the matter on snooping. Separately, the Justice Department sought to dismiss a federal lawsuit accusing the Bush Administration and AT&T of colluding on the wiretapping program.

Google it and read it for yourself. Funny how I can recall all the articles about our Government doing the bogus Warrant-less wiretapping long before Obama was ever elected. Funny how all the Bush lovers all of a sudden are suffering Major Memory losses.
Jun 10, 2013 4:11PM
All the low information voters don't seem to understand that the snooping was approved by a Majority of Republicans in Congress, not Democrats. All the low information voters don't seem to understand that it was Bush that started the Snooping on Americans via warrant-less wire taps.

What people earn has everything to do with a country where the wage gap has expanded from 40 to 1 to well over 400 to 1. What he has earned has everything to do with it since the Government was footing the BILL! What people pick to read can give insight. If a person had the Koran by their bedside, folks would clearly have a different take on what he choose to read.

I disagree with Both Bush and Obama on this issue. However that hardly makes this guy anything other than a Criminal. The only truth here is that people choose to be Dumb about this issue until Obama continued what Bush Started.

Jun 10, 2013 4:34PM
Are any of you concerned about what he revealed rather than who he is?  The issue is how much lying and dissembling and waste of our money that is going on in the intelligence community.   There is no effective oversight of these agencies.  The risk is that of losing our freedom to an increasingly authoritarian and dangerous segment of our government.  There have been coups in other countries.  Do we really wish to allow a takeover like those that have occurred in Russia, China, Iran and in some South American countries.  These intelligence agencies are dangerous entities--and should never be trusted--even if some of their activities are necessary.  A hard and tight rein should be exercised over them, and especially over their budgets--now probably around $100 billion a year, possibly more.
Jun 10, 2013 4:17PM
It's funny how some folks in Congress that voted for the Bill are now claiming they didn't know what was in it. Isn't that the same thing they accused Democrats of. If the right think they can just blow off what they voted for, think again. Both parties approved this going back to the early Bush Years. Both Parties signed off on the Extension of stated Bill. This isn't some News Flash. In fact, before Obama was President, folks were complained about this very same thing. The Right response was, why worry if you don't have anything to hide. Now they are flipping the Script and calling Criminals Heroes.  If you hated Obama on this, then you should have hated Bush as well. I do.
Jun 10, 2013 2:04PM

When guns and security are the method and the issue count on abuses, the need to monitor, and an ongoing attempt to overreach into a police state.


It doesn't matter if it's your campus police, your city police, the state patrol, the army, or the "national security" apparatus. People run these things, and people want it all. I do, you do, and they do, too.


The folks who aren't concerned are the ones who believe they've got a pass and aren't subject to the guns+security operations themselves. . . . Sure about that?


Remember, secret courts with secret judges in secret chambers with secret testimony aren't just for Colombian bam-bam trials anymore.

Jun 10, 2013 3:32PM
Americans are starting to fight back. Ed Snowden is  a true patriot. A young man in South Carolina was told by his school administers using religion in his graduation speech politically incorrect, instead in gave the lords pray. McDonalds is being attacked by the Obama loving news media and their sales are going up.. It is time for all of us to fight back. The government is the enemy.
Jun 11, 2013 7:56AM
Idiots listen up. This is not a Democrat or Republican issue. There are supporters on both sides. The big problem that I have, is that obo fought against this when he was in congress but now has no problem with lying to the American Citizens.
Jun 10, 2013 6:14PM
The current NSA program of massive data gathering and mining is merely the continuation of Total Information Awareness created by DARPA and SAIC in 2002 and run by Admiral John Poindexter, the Iran-contra convicted felon. When the NYTimes blew the cover on that operation Congress publicly dismantled it in 2003 but kept several of its components funded secretly under different organizations. Now we're beginning to see which programs they kept.
Jun 10, 2013 5:35PM
What's revealing is that he went straight to the Chinese. What's revealing is that he did this mostly because he hates Obama. Evidently, if BUSH was still pres, he would have no problem still collecting what amounts to a massive gov't handout.
Jun 10, 2013 4:51PM
How much he earns?  What he reads?  Wow, the Obama machine is really kicking in on this one!  This article should scare the daylights out of anyone, look at the information they were able to gather on him.  Don't you all get it?  This is the kind of stuff our government is doing to us.  It is scary!
Jun 10, 2013 6:00PM
Funny how some don't care what he read, what he makes, and certainly not the Fact that Bush signed a Executive Order allowing the NSA to engage in Warrant-Less Wiretaps of Americans.

How many recall that of all the big Carriers back then, only Qwest Communications refused to allow the Government's request. Funny how the CEO was shortly after, run out of town. But all we hear is about the IRS and the bogus election swinging farce 501(c)s. Funny how folk are a Hero, depending in not what they did, but only according to who's President.

Jun 10, 2013 5:29PM
This guy sounds like a traitor to me. I have nothing to hide so I don't care what the government sees. After all WE are the government. I don't cheat on my taxes and go out of my way to do what I believe is ethical and correct. Only those who are in fear of being discovered for unethical and illegal activities should worry about the governments efforts to stop terrorists. I think his real intention is for some kind of warped fame like came with Julian Assange of  Wikileaks.  How many good Americans will die because of that SOB. I guess if this Edward Snowden had lost someone he loved his eagerness to pass judgment about the methods those who are hired to protect us might have been a bit more patriotic.
Jun 10, 2013 5:21PM
here we have a man that sacrificed his well being to reveal the truth, without endangering anyone and proving the hypocrisy of our politicians 
Jul 13, 2013 6:10PM
     Haven't any of you contemplated the probability Snowden was deliberately sent to access other's mainframe computers/intel.  I find it EXTREMELY difficult to believe the gullible appearing Snowden evaded Interpol, etc. and was able to leave international airspace unabashed and travel where ever and whenever he wanted.  Other countries took the bait and plugged those laptops right into their networks haha.  Then President Obama made light of it saying, "I'm not going to scrammble jets for a 29 yr old hacker" in order to give them (countries whoring out Snowden) more confidence and time in Snowden's 4 laptops.    
Aug 28, 2013 1:42AM
This handsome dude deserves some deep smooches on his ripe cheeks and rosy lips for what he's done, in that he alerted the US public to be way of their surroundings at all times.
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