Edward Snowden Timeline (excerpted and archived from https://populartimelines.com/timeline/Edward-Snowden)
2004 — Snowden enlisted in the United States Army on May 7, 2004, and became a Special Forces candidate through its 18X enlistment option. He did not complete the training due to bilateral tibial stress fractures, and was discharged on September 28, 2004.
2005— Snowden was then employed for less than a year in 2005 as a security guard at the University of Maryland’s Center for Advanced Study of Language, a research center sponsored by the National Security Agency (NSA).
May 2006– After distinguishing himself as a junior employee on the top computer team, Snowden was sent to the CIA’s secret school for technology specialists, where he lived in a hotel for six months while studying and training full-time.
March 2007 —The CIA stationed Snowden with diplomatic cover in Geneva, Switzerland, where he was responsible for maintaining computer-network security. Assigned to the U.S. Permanent Mission to the United Nations, a diplomatic mission representing U.S. interests before the UN and other international organizations, Snowden received a diplomatic passport. Snowden described his CIA experience in Geneva as formative, stating that the CIA deliberately got a Swiss banker drunk and encouraged him to drive home. Snowden said that when the latter was arrested for drunk driving, a CIA operative offered to help in exchange for the banker becoming an informant. In February 2009, Snowden resigned from the CIA.
2009— Snowden began work as a contractee for Dell, which manages computer systems for multiple government agencies. Assigned to an NSA facility at Yokota Air Base near Tokyo, Snowden instructed top officials and military officers on how to defend their networks from Chinese hackers. Snowden looked into mass surveillance in China which prompted him to investigate and then expose Washington’s mass surveillance program after he was asked in 2009 to brief a conference in Tokyo. During his four years with Dell, he rose from supervising NSA computer system upgrades to working as what his résumé termed a “cyber strategist” and an “expert in cyber counterintelligence” at several U.S. locations.
2010— He had a brief stint in New Delhi, India where he enrolled himself in a local IT institute to learn core Java programming and advanced ethical hacking.
2011— In 2011, he returned to Maryland, where he spent a year as lead technologist on Dell’s CIA account. In that capacity, he was consulted by the chiefs of the CIA’s technical branches, including the agency’s chief information officer and its chief technology officer
A former NSA co-worker said that although the NSA was full of smart people, Snowden was a “genius among geniuses” who created a widely implemented backup system for the NSA and often pointed out security flaws to the agency. The former colleague said Snowden was given full administrator privileges with virtually unlimited access to NSA data. Snowden was offered a position on the NSA’s elite team of hackers, Tailored Access Operations, but turned it down to join Booz Allen. An anonymous source later said that Booz Allen’s hiring screeners found possible discrepancies in Snowden’s resume but still decided to hire him.
Snowden subsequently told Wired that while at Dell in 2011, “I would sit down with the CIO of the CIA, the CTO of the CIA, the chiefs of all the technical branches. They would tell me their hardest technology problems, and it was my job to come up with a way to fix them.”
2012— In March 2012, Dell reassigned Snowden to Hawaii as lead technologist for the NSA’s information-sharing office.
U.S. officials and other sources familiar with the investigation said Snowden began downloading documents describing the government’s electronic spying programs while working for Dell in April 2012. Investigators estimated that of the 50,000 to 200,000 documents Snowden gave to Greenwald and Poitras, most were copied by Snowden while working at Dell.2013
2013— In 2013, Snowden was hired by an NSA contractor, Booz Allen Hamilton, after previous employment with Dell and the CIA.
March 12, 2013– In January 2014, Snowden said his “breaking point” was “seeing the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, directly lie under oath to Congress.” This referred to testimony on March 12, 2013—three months after Snowden first sought to share thousands of NSA documents with Greenwald, and nine months after the NSA says Snowden made his first illegal downloads during the summer of 2012 —in which Clapper denied to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that the NSA wittingly collects data on millions of Americans. Snowden said, “There’s no saving an intelligence community that believes it can lie to the public and the legislators who need to be able to trust it and regulate its actions. Seeing that really meant for me there was no going back. Beyond that, it was the creeping realization that no one else was going to do this. The public had a right to know about these programs.”
March 15, 2013– On March 15, 2013 – three days after what he later called his “breaking point” of “seeing the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, directly lie under oath to Congress” – Snowden quit his job at Dell. Although he has said his career high annual salary was $200,000, Snowden said he took a pay cut to work at consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, where he sought employment in order to gather data and then release details of the NSA’s worldwide surveillance activity.
April 2013— Greenwald began working with Snowden in either February or April 2013, after Poitras asked Greenwald to meet her in New York City, at which point Snowden began providing documents to them. Barton Gellman, writing for The Washington Post, says his first direct contact was on May 16, 2013. According to Gellman, Snowden approached Greenwald after the Post declined to guarantee publication within 72 hours of all 41 PowerPoint slides that Snowden had leaked exposing the PRISM electronic data mining program, and to publish online an encrypted code allowing Snowden to later prove that he was the source.
On May 20, 2013, Snowden flew to Hong Kong after leaving his job at an NSA facility in Hawaii, and in early June he revealed thousands of classified NSA documents to journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Barton Gellman, and Ewen MacAskill.
May 2013— At the time of his departure from the U.S. in May 2013, he had been employed for 15 months inside the NSA’s Hawaii regional operations center, which focuses on the electronic monitoring of China and North Korea, first for Dell and then for two months with Booz Allen Hamilton. While intelligence officials have described his position there as a system administrator, Snowden has said he was an infrastructure analyst, which meant that his job was to look for new ways to break into Internet and telephone traffic around the world. An anonymous source told Reuters that, while in Hawaii, Snowden may have persuaded 20–25 co-workers to give him their login credentials by telling them he needed them to do his job. The NSA sent a memo to Congress saying that Snowden had tricked a fellow employee into sharing his personal private key to gain greater access to the NSA’s computer system. Snowden disputed the memo, saying in January 2014, “I never stole any passwords, nor did I trick an army of co-workers.”
Snowden quit his job, telling his supervisors he required epilepsy treatment, but instead fled the United States for Hong Kong on May 10. He chose Hong Kong because at the time “they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent”. Snowden had been in his room at the Mira Hotel since his arrival in the city, rarely going out.
Snowden was permitted temporary leave from his position at the NSA in Hawaii, on the pretext of receiving treatment for his epilepsy. In mid-May, Snowden gave an electronic interview to Poitras and Jacob Appelbaum which was published weeks later by Der Spiegel.
On May 20, 2013, Snowden flew to Hong Kong, where he was staying when the initial articles based on the leaked documents were published, beginning with The Guardian on June 5. Greenwald later said Snowden disclosed 9,000 to 10,000 documents.
June 2013— On June 5, 2013, media reports documenting the existence and functions of classified surveillance programs and their scope began and continued throughout the entire year. The first program to be revealed was PRISM, which allows for court-approved direct access to Americans’ Google and Yahoo accounts, reported from both The Washington Post and The Guardian published one hour apart. Barton Gellman of The Washington Post was the first journalist to report on Snowden’s documents. He said the U.S. government urged him not to specify by name which companies were involved, but Gellman decided that to name them “would make it real to Americans.”
Reports also revealed details of Tempora, a secret British surveillance program run by the NSA’s British partner, GCHQ. The initial reports included details about NSA call database, Boundless Informant, and of a secret court order requiring Verizon to hand the NSA millions of Americans’ phone records daily, the surveillance of French citizens’ phone and Internet records, and those of “high-profile individuals from the world of business or politics.” XKeyscore, an analytical tool that allows for collection of “almost anything done on the internet,” was described by The Guardian as a program that shed light on one of Snowden’s most controversial statements: “I, sitting at my desk [could] wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email.”
Booz Allen terminated Snowden’s employment on June 10, 2013, the day after he went public with his story, and 3 weeks after he had left Hawaii on a leave of absence.
Whistleblowing— Snowden says he gradually became disillusioned with the programs with which he was involved, and that he tried to raise his ethical concerns through internal channels but was ignored.
In March 2014, Snowden said he had reported policy or legal issues related to spying programs to more than ten officials, but as a contractor had no legal avenue to pursue further whistleblowing.
In May 2014, U.S. officials released a single email that Snowden had written in April 2013 inquiring about legal authorities but said that they had found no other evidence that Snowden had expressed his concerns to someone in an oversight position. In June 2014, the NSA said it had not been able to find any records of Snowden raising internal complaints about the agency’s operations. That same month, Snowden explained that he had not produced the communiqués in question because of the ongoing nature of the dispute, disclosing for the first time that “I am working with the NSA in regard to these records and we’re going back and forth, so I don’t want to reveal everything that will come out.”
Foreign Intelligence Law Collection — Professor Laura K. Donohue, the Agnes N. Williams Research Professor at Georgetown University Law Center, in collaboration with the Georgetown University Edward Bennett Williams Law Library, has developed a collection that includes foreign intelligence-related statutory and regulatory instruments; the legislative histories for statutory changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA); publicly available and declassified opinions and orders issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review (FISCR); FISA-related cases in non-specialized Article III courts; statutorily-required reports on the operation of FISA and formal correspondence between FISC and Congress; FISC/FISCR Rules of Procedure; and an annotated bibliography of secondary sources related to FISA, FISC/FISCR, and foreign intelligence law.
The Patriot Act Turns 20: Taking Stock and Rethinking Surveillance Powers — What were the key civil liberties concerns back in the fall of 2001 and how have government surveillance activities changed over the last two decades? With the benefit of 20 years of experience, what authorities does the government need to keep the country safe while preserving civil liberties and civil rights in the U.S. and abroad? Should there be a comprehensive reexamination of government #surveillance authorities today? What changes should be made?
On October 5th, CDT hosted a discussion to tackle these questions and others that began with a fireside chat between former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, the lone “no” vote in the Senate against the Patriot Act, and Laura Murphy, who managed the ACLU’s Legislative Office in Washington, D.C. during the bill’s passage. Their talk will be followed by a panel discussion and public Q&A session with:
* Laura Donohue, Director of Georgetown University’s Center on National Security and the Law, Designated FISA Court Amicus Curiae
* Chris Fonzone, General Counsel, Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI)
* Sharon Bradford Franklin, Co-Director of the CDT Security & Surveillance Project, former Executive Director of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB)
Moderated by Shane Harris, Washington Post intelligence and #nationalsecurity reporter and author of The Watchers: The Rise of America’s Surveillance State and @War: The Rise of the Military-Internet Complex.
“Secrets and Lies — Exposed and Combatted: Warrantless Surveillance Under and Around the Law 2001-2017.” Secrecy and Society 2(1). https://scholarworks.sjsu.edu/secrecyandsociety/vol2/iss1/
This article was written over the period of June 2017 to March 2018. Before June 2013, civil society and much of Congress were largely in the dark about the extent of the surveillance activities of the National Security Agency and the circumlocutions of statute undertaken by the White House and the Department of Justice. After the releases by Edward Snowden to specific journalists, the mendacity of Intelligence Community lawyers and leaders, the evasions of the law and manipulation of the FISA Court by the White House working with the Justice Department, and the scope of the violations of the Fourth Amendment protections of U.S. Persons (USPs) became increasingly apparent.
In order to understand the context for the “Snowden disclosures” and what they have meant for Executive Branch accountability, it is necessary to understand the course of efforts to rein in – or at least secure some (often minimal) oversight of – the U.S. Intelligence Community. These initiatives include the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and the amendments thereto, including, for the purposes of this article, the USA PATRIOT Act, the USA Freedom Act, and the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) and its reauthorizations. The article reviews the changes that were initiated in the Executive Branch (and to a lesser extent in the Legislative Branch), the role civil society played in pushing and utilizing greater transparency, and what the changes mean for government accountability to the public.
As news articles appear about the ongoing activities of the Intelligence Community in the areas covered in this article, they will be noted here. It is strongly advised that one read “Secret and Lies” before taking any government statements at face value–or thinking the words necessarily mean what they appear to mean.