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Edward Snowden and the NSA: A Timeline of Events

You know all those people who walk around with tin foil under their hats and talk about weird things that don’t make any sense? Well, it seems they might not have been so wrong after all.

Make fun of them all you want, but the conspiracy theories about the government watching us all the time doesn’t seem so far fetched anymore.

Edward Snowden, the 30-year-old whistleblower who leaked documents from the NSA—revealing a wide-range government surveillance program—has been hiding out of the United States since late May of 2013. In order to offer a bit of an overview of the escapades that have unfolded since then, here’s a timeline of Snowden news and reports regarding him and the NSA.


APRIL 2013: After a few months of working with a Hawaii-based NSA location, Snowden leaks data on a PRISM PowerPoint to news media. PRISM is a mass electronic data-mining program, initiated in wake of the Protect America Act under the Bush Administration, that the NSA is thought to have been using since 2007.


MAY 20, 2013: After an encounter with The Washington Post, among other media, Snowden tells NSA supervisors that he needs time off due to treatment of epilepsy. According to The Guardian, he flees to Hong Kong.


JUNE 6, 2013: Arguably the most crucial day of this timeline, both The Washington Post and The Guardian break the story regarding PRISM. Both published comments from Snowden, warning that the extent of the data collection far transcended what the public was aware of, and that the NSA was operating under “dangerous” and even “criminal” circumstances. Snowden’s identity becomes public a few days later.


JUNE 12, 2013: A Hong Kong newspaper, The South China Morning Post, publishes an interview with Snowden—with his face on the cover of the paper. He is now believed to be located in Hong Kong.


JUNE 17, 2013: Snowden has to deny contentions that he is a Chinese agent, and states that because U.S. officials have labeled him a traitor, that there is no longer a possibility of a fair trial.


JUNE 22, 2013: Days after Wikileaks founder Julian Assange attempts to broker a deal to asylum Snowden in Iceland, U.S. prosecutors file a criminal complaint against Snowden—charging him with espionage and theft. The White House, subsequently, requests his removal from Hong Kong.


JUNE 23 – JULY 12, 2013: Following the previous events, Snowden immediately flies from Hong Kong to Moscow, and begins requesting asylum in numerous countries. White House spokesman Jay Carney says the way Snowden departed from Hong Kong will “unquestionably impact” the U.S.’s relations with China. Senator John Kerry refers to Snowden as a “fugitive of justice,” as President Obama assures he is engaging in “high-level” talks with Moscow. Meanwhile, Snowden is awaiting results on over 20 asylum requests—all in different countries.


AUGUST 1, 2013: Snowden enters Russian territory after applying for temporary asylum. The U.S. describes Russia’s decision as “extremely disappointing.”


AUGUST 16, 2013: After President Obama promises “appropriate reforms” on U.S. surveillance protocol, The Washington Post reports the NSA has countlessly broken privacy rules and overstepped legal authority, citing documents from Edward Snowden.


AUGUST 21 – SEPTEMBER 17, 2013: The Office of the Director of National Intelligence releases a FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) court decision that details the NSA’s violation of the Fourth Amendment. After releasing FISA court opinions in response to an EFF lawsuit, the government releases legal justification for mass spying, using Section 215 of the Patriot Act.


SEPTEMBER 28 – OCTOBER 4, 2013: The New York Times reports on the NSA’s mapping of Americans using social networks, and reveal the NSA’s tracked cell phone location of Americans, which dates back an alleged two years. In addition, The Guardian reports the NSA stores “metadata” of millions of web users for up to one year.


OCTOBER 14 – OCTOBER 30, 2013: The Washington Post reports on how the NSA collects “buddy lists,” address books, and how they enter Google and Yahoo!’s data centers.


NOVEMBER 22, 2013: The ALCU (American Civil Liberties Union) spoke to a federal judge in order to “halt a U.S. spy agency’s sweeping collection of telephone data, arguing that the program goes beyond what Congress authorized and violates the Constitutional right of Americans.” – Reuters.


NOVEMBER 26 – DECEMBER 10, 2013: Numerous reports are released regarding the things the NSA has been spying on—including, but not limited to, porn habits, video game users, tracking mobile data and turning browser cookies into surveillance devices. Meanwhile, The New York Times reports that in over a dozen FISA court rulings, “the nation’s surveillance court has created a secret body of law giving the National Security Agency the power to amass vast collections of data on Americans while pursuing not only terrorism suspects, but also people possibly involved in nuclear proliferation, espionage and cyber attacks, officials say.”


JANUARY 16 – JANUARY 17 2014: The Guardian reveals that the NSA collects millions of text messages. The next day, President Obama gives a speech temporarily ending the Section 215 program collecting calling records, etc. He asks the panel group for alternatives; they are set to meet again in or around late March.


JANUARY 23, 2014: Edward Snowden holds a Q&A via Twitter, where users could use #AskSnowden to interrogate him. Among the many questions he fielded, he stated that while it does make him uncomfortable to be wished dead by numerous people, that “doing the right thing means having no regrets.”


JANUARY 27, 2014: A report states that the NSA spies on users by obtaining information from “leaky” mobile apps.


JANUARY 29, 2014: Two Norwegian politicians nominate Edward Snowden—who remains in Russia—for a Nobel Piece Prize, according to The Washington Post.


Well, folks, that’s all we have so far. There are still many questions to be answered, though. Will Snowden return to the U.S.? What don’t we know about government surveillance? At any rate, we know that Edward Snowden essentially leaked one of the biggest conspiracies in recent memory, and we are still experiencing the fallout from it.


Sources: BBC News, The Washington Post, and

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