Edward Joseph Snowden is an American computer professional, former employee of the Central Intelligence Agency and former contractor for the National Security Agency. He came to international attention when he disclosed thousands of classified documents to several media outlets, which he had acquired while working for the American consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden's release of classified material has been described as the most significant leak in U.S. history by Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg.

In May 2013, Snowden flew from Hawaii to Hong Kong, where he met with journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras and released his documents to them. With his permission, the journalists later revealed his identity to the international media. The U.S. Department of Justice charged Snowden with espionage on June 21, and the U.S. Department of State revoked his passport the next day. On June 23, substituting a temporary Ecuadorian travel document for his cancelled passport, Snowden flew to Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport. He was ticketed for onward flight to Latin America via Cuba, but did not board that flight. On June 27, Ecuador publicly canceled his safe passage, saying it was issued without official authorization. Snowden remained stranded in the airport transit zone until August 1, when the Russian government granted him a one-year temporary renewable asylum.

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