The Snowden Case: Background and Current Status

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What is the status of the case of Edward Snowden? Was there ever an arrest? How did the Snowden case play out after he leaked and fled?

The Snowden case is the result of Edward Snowden’s leak of government documents in 2013. Ed was in Hong Kong and ended up getting asylum in Russia to avoid extradition.

Learn more about the Snowden case, how it unfolded, and where the current status of the case of Edward Snowden.

The Snowden Case Begins

The Guardian released the first story from Ed’s leak on June 5, 2013. It was about the NSA collecting data from Verizon, which the FISA Court had permitted. On June 6, a story about PRISM appeared in both the Guardian and Washington Post.

Ed’s office had tried to get in touch with him—he was supposed to have returned to work May 31—and he ignored their messages. The US government was working hard to identify the source of the leak and Ed knew that they’d soon figure out it was him. Ed also knew that if they identified him, they’d spin the story to misrepresent him so he looked crazy or morally suspect, and they’d shift the focus from what they’d done to The Guardian released the first story from Ed’s leak on June 5, 2013. It was about the NSA collecting data from Verizon, which the FISA Court had permitted. On June 6, a story about PRISM appeared in both the Guardian and Washington Post.what he’d done. 

Ed decided he’d reveal himself as the source of the leak before the government could. Ewen wrote a story about him and Laura suggested doing a video statement. They didn’t have time to polish a video statement, so Laura used footage from the first day they’d met. The video went live on June 9.

Consequences of the Case of Edward Snowden: Arrest, Extradition, and More

For Snowden, arrest was always a possibility. He had shared top secret information with the media, which was illegal. Ed was charged with political crime—crime against the state instead of against a person—under the Espionage Act on June 14.

Ed should have been exempt from extradition because the Snowden case was a political crime. (Often, those charged with “political crime” haven’t actually committed crimes; the charge is simply a way for an authoritarian government to control dissent.) However, the US government requested his extradition on June 21, expecting that Hong Kong, like most countries, wouldn’t dare to defy them.

The Snowden case resulted in:

  • Public outcry and national conversations about surveillance.
  • Congress’s investigation of the NSA.
  • Court cases about the NSA’s programs. Some of the cases restricted the NSA’s future activity.
  • The USA Freedom Act, which forbids “bulk collection” (mass surveillance) of American’s phone records.
  • Companies and individuals using tighter security, such as encryption.
  • EU whistleblower and privacy protections, notably the General Data Protection Regulation, which states that data isn’t owned by the person who collects it; it’s owned by the person it’s about.

Ed got in touch with 27 countries, asking for political asylum, but none of them would take him, or said they’d only consider if after he’d already traveled there, which was impossible. Eventually, he was granted asylum by Russia.

The Snowden Case: Background and Current Status

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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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