MOSCOW, June 5 (RIA Novosti) – Thursday marks the one year anniversary of the first leak by Edward Snowden, a 30-year old NSA-contractor.
On June 5, 2013, the Guardian leaked classified National Security Agency (NSA) documents, including an order to Verizon to share metadata from millions of US citizens' phone calls with the FBI and the NSA.
A day later the Guardian and the Washington Post uncovered information about PRISM - a US intelligence program that allowed the NSA to oversee private audio and video chats, photographs, and e-mails from computers at Microsoft, Google, Apple and other Internet companies. The Guardian then revealed that the NSA collected approximately three billion pieces of intelligence on US citizens just in February 2013.
On June 9, 2013, Edward Snowden was revealed as the source of the leaks. It also became clear that he was located in Hong Kong. On June 14, FBI Director Robert Mueller stated that Snowden caused the US “significant harm”.
Defending the NSA before the US House Intelligence Committee its Director Keith Alexander claimed the surveillance programs reported in the Snowden leaks had helped thwart 50 attacks since 2001.
On June 23, 2013, Snowden flew from Hong Kong to Moscow after the US revoked his passport and requested his extradition from Hong Kong. Snowden remained at the Sheremetyevo International Airport transit zone, waiting for decisions on his several asylum applications. Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed Snowden was in the transit zone and was a free man. US Secretary of State John Kerry requested Russia transfer the “fugitive of justice” to the US.
In late June, German magazine Der Spiegel published more Snowden leaks revealing that the NSA spied on EU offices in Washington and New York, as well as an EU building in Brussels. Another article in Der Spiegel reported that the NSA spies on 500 million data connections in Germany every month.
In July more leaks were published, including details of the NSA surveillance in Latin American and information on XKeyscore, an NSA program, with a network of 500 servers around the world that collect “nearly everything a user does on the Internet.”
On August 1, 2013, Snowden's application for political asylum in Russia was approved for one year and he left Sheremetyevo International Airport. The US reacted by saying that Russia's decision was “extremely disappointing.”
US President Barack Obama then canceled a planned summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in September. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov responded that Russia acted strictly in line with Russian law and the country's international obligations in its decision to grant Snowden temporary asylum.
In August another Snowden leak was published in the Washington Post, revealing that there were 231 cyber-attacks by the US government in 2011, aimed at government targets in Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. Der Spiegel also reported that the NSA had spied on the Al Jazeera Media Network.
In September, Brazilian TV reported that the NSA had spied on Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, while Der Spiegel revealed that the NSA can spy on all major smart phones on the market. Later the same month Indian daily The Hindu published a series of articles on the NSA's surveillance of the Indian government, which was focused on India's nuclear and space programs.
On October 23, 2013, another major scandal broke out when German Chancellor Angela Merkel found out that the US intelligence possibly tapped her cell phone. She called US President Barack Obama for clarification, but the issue has not yet been resolved.
In late October, it was reported that Snowden was hired by an unnamed Russian website.
In March 2014, Snowden addressed a US audience for the first time, speaking via teleconference from Russia to thousands at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin. Later a collaborative publication by The New York Times and Der Spiegel reported that the NSA had been extensively spying on the Chinese high-tech firm Huawei.
Recently, Snowden stated he intends to apply for renewal of his asylum status in Russia.