Where is Edward Snowden now and what did he do?

A new ITV documentary looks at the life of Edward Snowden and other notorious spies

Edward Snowden looking into the camera with his hand on his chin
(Image credit: Getty Images)

You've probably heard the name of the former National Security Agency employee before, but where is Edward Snowden now?

ITV's new documentary series, Secrets of the Spies delves into the world of espionage, including interviews with former spies, forensic experts and historians to uncover more about the elusive topic. Episode three airs on 23 August, focusing on cyber spycraft and whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden.

Documentaries such as this often prompt questions about where their subjects ended up, as was the case with Robert Freegard from fictional adaptation Rogue Agent and Anthony Templet from Netflix's I Just Killed My Dad. Secrets of the Spies is no different, so here's everything we know about where is Edward Snowden now...

Where is Edward Snowden now?

Edward Snowden has been a permanent resident in Russia since September 2020. He has been living in exile in Moscow since 2013 after fleeing to the capital city and initially being granted asylum there.

Snowden has kept a low profile in Russia, where he lives with his wife and two children - aside from occasionally criticising government policy on social media. He has previously said he would return to the US if he was guaranteed a fair trial, and a few months before his permanent residency was granted, in August 2020, then US President Donald Trump said he was considering a pardon for Snowden.

Snowden is now president of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, a non-profit organisation that 'protects, defends, and empowers' public interest journalism.

What did Edward Snowden do?

Edward Snowden leaked thousands of National Security Agency (NSA) documents to journalists that detailed the intelligence agency's mass surveillance of the public. He was working for the NSA up until he leaked the documents, which made himself a whistleblower.

After downloading the top-secret documents, Snowden said he needed some time off work and flew to Hong Kong in May 2013, where he passed them on to journalists such as Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian, Barton Gellman of The Washington Post, and documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras.

The Pulitzer Prize board later awarded its medal for public service to The Washington Post and The Guardian for their articles on the documents provided by Snowden.

Snowden was on his way from Hong Kong to Ecuador - where he was planning on submitting a request for asylum - when the US cancelled his passport, leaving him stranded in Russia.

What secrets did Edward Snowden leak?

The leaks revealed some of the details of a global surveillance programme run by the NSA in cooperation with other intelligence agencies, including Britain's GCHQ. 

Among the information Snowden exposed was data showing the US had been spying on foreign leaders - including US allies such as Angela Merkel - as well as the NSA’s ability to access the Google, Yahoo and Facebook accounts of US citizens. Other surveillance operations allowed the NSA to spy on the internet activity of individuals across the globe.

The documents also revealed the details of a British surveillance programmed called Tempora, which allowed GCHQ (Britain's intelligence agency) to tap undersea fibre optic cables and collect vast amounts of private internet data.

The NSA, CIA and GCHQ were also spying on users of the online games Second Life and World of Warcraft as well as Xbox Live, and attempted to recruit informants from the sites.

Did Edward Snowden go to prison?

Edward Snowden did not go to prison, but he would have to face criminal charges if he returned to the US. The Department of Justice has charged him with violating the 1917 Espionage Act, and if found guilty he could face up to 30 years in prison. 

In 2017, during the final weeks of the Obama administration, more than one million people signed a petition urging Obama to pardon Snowden. However, the White House said he hadn't submitted official documents requesting clemency.

Edward Snowden wife: Who is Lindsay Mills

Lindsay Mills is a dancer and acrobat, and has been in a relationship with Snowden since 2009. The pair got married in 2017 and Mills gave birth to their first son in 2020. 

When Snowden fled to Hong Kong in 2013, he told Mills - who he was living with in Hawaii at the time - that he was going on holiday. For a while she remained in the US without Snowden, but the 2014 documentary Citizenfour revealed that Mills had been living in Russia with Snowden since July that year. The documentary won an Oscar for Best Documentary and Mills joined the filmmakers on stage to accept it.

In May 2022, Mills revealed on her Instagram that herself and Snowden had welcomed their second child.

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Ellie Hutchings
Family News Editor

Ellie is GoodtoKnow’s Family News Editor and covers all the latest trends in the parenting world - from relationship advice and baby names to wellbeing and self-care ideas for busy mums. Ellie is also an NCTJ-qualified journalist and has a distinction in MA Magazine Journalism from Nottingham Trent University and a first-class degree in Journalism from Cardiff University. Previously, Ellie has worked with BBC Good Food, The Big Issue, and the Nottingham Post, as well as freelancing as an arts and entertainment writer alongside her studies. When she’s not got her nose in a book, you’ll probably find Ellie jogging around her local park, indulging in an insta-worthy restaurant, or watching Netflix’s newest true crime documentary.