Edward Snowden’s Parents: A Family Legacy of Service

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Who are Edward Snowden’s parents? What is Edward Snowden’s family like? Who is Jessica Snowden?

Edward Snowden’s parents are Lonnie and Wendy Snowden. The other member of Edward Snowden’s family is his sister Jessica Snowden.

Learn more about Edward Snowden’s family, including Jessica Snowden and Edward Snowden’s parents.

Edward Snowden’s Parents and Family

Edward Snowden was born on June 21, 1983, in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Edward Snowden’s parents come from a long line of heroes and patriots. His grandfather and father both worked for the Coast Guard and his mother was directly descended from the barrelmaker on the Mayflower.

Edward Snowden’s family life was different. Ed was part of the last generation whose childhood wasn’t digitized. Edward Snowden’s parents have his baby photos in photo albums instead of on Facebook, and his home videos on VHS tapes instead of YouTube. Unlike online digital records, these analog formats won’t last forever.

As a child, Ed liked spying. In the home of Edward Snowden’s parents, there was a window between his room and the den and he would spy on his family members as they watched TV, did chores, or in the case of his father Lonnie, played with technology.

When Ed was nine, his family moved to Crofton, Maryland. Lonnie continued to work for the Coast Guard. Wendy took a new job at the NSA, the National Security Agency, making retirement arrangements for spies.

Getting a Computer

Shortly after moving to Crofton Edward Snowden’s family got a Compaq Presario 425, their first home computer. At the time it seemed state of the art—it had a 25MHz CPU, 200MG hard disk, and a 256-color monitor. 

When Ed was approximately 12, he decided to spend as much time as he possibly could online. The Internet became an obsession. He sometimes felt like he wanted to consume the entire Internet. Every moment he wasn’t online new things were going up and he was missing them. When his family members kicked him off the computer, he’d print things to read, or he’d sneak online at night when everyone else was asleep.

Ed’s obsession with the computer was inconvenient for his family, especially his sister. The Internet was dial-up, so the phone and Internet couldn’t be used at the same time, and Ed would use the Internet so frequently Jessica Snowden would miss calls from her friends. As revenge, sometimes she’d pick up the phone when Ed was in the middle of something online to break the connection. You can’t save or pause MMORPGs because they’re live—other people are playing it at the same time—so when you get interrupted, your character dies. 

Edward Snowden’s parents handled this by installing another phone line and switching the Internet plan to unlimited.

Edward Snowden’s Parents Get Divorced

Ed’s parents got a divorce. Lonnie moved out, and Wendy sold the house and moved to a condo in Ellicott City with Jessica and Ed. Jessica got into the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and also moved out.

Ed blamed himself for his parents’ divorce—if he’d been a better child, it wouldn’t have happened. He tried to be more grown-up and got a cell phone that he wore attached to his belt like an adult. He became closer to mentors rather than his parents. After the divorce, everyone in the family started keeping secrets.

Return to Fort Meade

Before he blew the whistle in May 2013, Ed returned to Fort Meade for training and to meet his new colleagues and bosses. It would be the last time Ed would see his family. He went for dinner with his dad, who he knew wouldn’t have approved of what Ed was about to do—Lonnie would have called the cops or had him committed.

Edward Snowden’s Parents: A Family Legacy of Service

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best summary of Edward Snowden's "Permanent Record" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Permanent Record summary:

  • What Ed Snowden discovered that caused him to completely lose faith in the government
  • How Snowden led the bombshell reports of US mass surveillance
  • How Snowden is coping with his treatment as both patriot and traitor

Rina Shah

An avid reader for as long as she can remember, Rina’s love for books began with The Boxcar Children. Her penchant for always having a book nearby has never faded, though her reading tastes have since evolved. Rina reads around 100 books every year, with a fairly even split between fiction and non-fiction. Her favorite genres are memoirs, public health, and locked room mysteries. As an attorney, Rina can’t help analyzing and deconstructing arguments in any book she reads.

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