Friday 15 December 2017

High school dropout was earning €200,000 salary for snooping

Raf Sanchez

THE TURBULENT recent weeks of Edward Snowden's life played out in a series of now empty rooms.

First there was the peaceful wooden house he shared with his girlfriend on Hawaii's Oahu island. It was there that he returned each night after copying classified US government files, building an archive of secrets that would shock the world.

He could have stayed on that life's quiet trajectory, enjoying the benefits of his $200,000 (€150,000) contractor's salary and his Pacific island idyll.

Instead, the 29-year-old told his girlfriend he had to leave for a few weeks. They emptied the house on May 1.

From there he flew to the chaotic neon-lit streets of Hong Kong, apparently taking up residence in the luxury Mira hotel.

Already pale, he reportedly left the room only three times as he worked frantically to expose his government's global surveillance network.

Yesterday, a staff member confirmed that room too was now empty.

The rooms in Hawaii and Hong Kong are a long way from suburban Maryland, where Mr Snowden moved in the early 1990s with his family as an academically struggling teenager.

He failed to complete high school and a local community college said yesterday that he never received a degree despite six years of on-off study.

His mother, Wendy, is an official at the federal court in Baltimore and many of her neighbours work at the nearby headquarters of the National Security Agency (NSA). Public records show few traces of his father, Lonnie, raising the possibility he, too, may have once worked in intelligence.

Mr Snowden Jr briefly enlisted in the army and attempted to join the special forces but military records show he was discharged after five months without completing training. He told 'The Guardian' he broke both legs in a training accident.

Yet from there his life seems to have turned, and he began a rapid ascent from a security guard to a CIA technical specialist. As his career flourished in US intelligence, so did a growing disenchantment with the government he served. He voted for a minor candidate in the 2008 election.

He left government service in 2009 for a career in private defence contracting but his lucrative salary did nothing to calm his growing anger.

Ten days from today, Mr Snowden will mark his 30th birthday. Whether he is still a free man by then will depend on forces far beyond the empty rooms he has left behind. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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