News World On This Day: Whistleblower Edward Snowden was born
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On This Day: Whistleblower Edward Snowden was born

Whistleblower Edward Snowden broadcast live from asylum in Russia in 2017. Photo: Getty
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He’s been called a traitor, a hero, a dissident and a patriot for leaking top-secret information held by the US government.

Whatever your view, Edward Snowden is bound to go down in history as one of America’s most significant whistleblowers.

He was born on this day in 1983, in the US state of North Carolina.

From a young age, it was obvious Snowden was going to be bright.

Born into a family of government officials and lawyers, he scored above 145 on two separate IQ tests – well above the average score of 100.

Rather than watching television or playing sport, Snowden fell in love with books and nurtured his natural intelligence.

That was until grade 10, when he developed glandular fever and missed nearly nine months of school.

Edward Snowden
Edward Snowden has become a powerful symbol in the movement against government surveillance around the world. Photo: Getty

Instead of repeating a grade, he decided to quit school altogether and enrolled at a community college.

From there, his passion for computers blossomed and led him on the path to becoming a computer intelligence consultant at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

In 2013, his life took a turn.

Snowden was hired by a contractor for the National Security Agency, and gradually became disillusioned with the programs he was helping to run.

He tried raising ethical concerns with his bosses, but no one cared.

Edward Snowden
Edward Snowden gives interviews via video link in Russia. Photo: Getty

Then on May 20 that year, he quit his job and flew to Hong Kong where he leaked thousands of top-secret documents to journalists at The Guardian, The Washington Post and other publications.

Many of the secrets blew the lid off global surveillance programs run by the NSA and the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, with the help of telco companies and European governments.

Suddenly, everyday people realised the extent to which their behaviour was being recorded, and the event ignited a huge cultural debate about national security and individual privacy.

He has since been living in Russia, where he was granted the right of asylum to escape persecution from the US government.

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