This month saw the release of No Place to Hide, an account by journalist Glenn Greenwald of the Edward Snowden leaks. As one of the two journalists who broke Snowden's story, Greenwald's retelling of events is an important reminder of British and American snooping, and provides ample reason to recap on the digital age's most prominent whistleblower.
According to an email sent to the Guardian, Snowden enlisted for the US Army Reserves as a Special Forces recruit. "I wanted to fight in the Iraq war because I felt like I had an obligation as a human being to help free people from oppression," he said. He quickly became disillusioned, reporting that those training him were "pumped up about killing Arabs", rather than wishing to effect beneficial regime change in the region. In the end he left after breaking both legs, having not completed any training.
Snowden enlisted in the CIA, having worked at the University of Maryland as a security guard following his departure from the army. "[I was] drawn to the C.I.A. by a sense of duty, a desire to contribute," he said. "I wanted to do the hard work, not the easy stuff." Recalling his time in the country, Snowden remembered CIA agents encouraging a banker to drive drunk, leading to the man's arrest. The spies befriended the banker after offering to help him after the incident. "I realised that I was part of something that was doing far more harm than good," Snowden said.
On leaving the CIA, Snowden joined Dell as a private contractor, beginning at an NSA base in Japan. Vanity Fair reported that most of the documents Snowden would eventually hand to Greenwald were collected during his time with Dell, anywhere between 50,000 to 200,000 files. As a contractor Snowden would move between jobs, often with extensive security clearance which allowed him to gain hold of sensitive information.